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Z13 – The Bavarian Job

BMW's Mini-like Z13 - image via pixshark

BMW’s Mini-like Z13 – image via pixshark

BMW’s 1993 attempt to blow the bloody doors off…

It’s been suggested that BMW management pushed through the decision to build an overtly sporting concept of Mini against the wishes of Rover engineers, who advocated a more radical approach. There is a nub of truth in this, but only a nub. With Mini’s centre of gravity shifting towards the sporting Cooper model, Rover engineers had been working on Minki; a heavily re-engineered version of the existing car, aimed not only at modernising the concept, but in effect refocusing it. In 1995, BMW acquired Rover and with a new Mini a priority, Minki was recreated to demonstrate what some Rover engineers believed a plausible creative direction. Not everyone saw progress in this light, there being in effect three opposing conceptual strands: sporting, mainstream and radical. Continue reading

More Borgward news

USA Today reported that a Mercedes Benz executive, Ulrich Walker, will oversee the return of Borgward to production after a bit of a gap.

1960 Borgward P100 - was this affordable luxury? Image: www.history-of-cars.com

1960 Borgward P100 – was this affordable luxury? Image: http://www.history-of-cars.com

The article  reported that Walker´s vision for the car is affordable luxury, which is rather intriguing as this translates as that class of car where there has been the most fatalities in the last few decades: Triumph, Lancia, Rover, Saab, Oldsmobile, for example. Further, mainstream brands that have had products that reached into the affordable luxury sector have been less and less successful. Ford, Opel, Renault and Citroen have all lost considerable amounts of customers in this sector as the Scorpio, Omega, 607 and C6 have failed to meet sales expectations. This doesn’t mean it´s not a very interesting sector for spectators.  My own impression is that affordable luxury  means an upper-mid range saloon with a bias towards comfort and beige interiors. I look forward to seeing how that one pans out.

Fiat´s new saloon

For anyone who pines for a Fiat saloon,  Fiat has something new.

2016 Fiat Ægea: www.fiatpress.com

2016 Fiat Ægea: http://www.fiatpress.com

Fiat will unveil their new Ægea saloon at the Istanbul motor show. The car is  described as being designed from the outset as a saloon though the one photo they show at their website  does not reveal the appearance of the rear three quarter which is unduly reticent, I would say. The name is a nod the Turkish input to the project and the fact it will be Continue reading

Alternative Paths In An Unpredictable Industry

DTW Considers The Alternative German Big Three

At the end of the 1950s, there was a sizeable group of home-owned players in the German industry, but we shall concentrate initially on three of them – Borgward, NSU and Glas. Only the first three paragraphs of this piece are fact, the rest is entirely speculation as to how things could have worked out quite differently, yet might have ended up much the same.

Borgward had been making cars since the 1920s. They were fast to restart manufacture after the War, being the first German company to put an all new car into production, the Hansa 1500. This was replaced in 1954 by the mid-sized Isabella and that was joined in 1959 by both the larger six-cylinder P100 and the smaller Arabella, featuring a flat 4 boxer that Subaru used as a reference point when developing their own engine. Having a decent and attractive range, with innovative yet sensible specifications, Borgward’s pricing was keen, undercutting similar Mercedes models. The only problems were a reputation for introducing under-developed cars too early and, crucially, Carl Borward’s attitude that the best way to improve cashflow was not through expensive borrowing, but by stalling payment to suppliers. Needless to say this didn’t make him many friends. Continue reading

Fossil Traces: From Minki to MINI

Minki schematic - Minki 2 featured a longer and wider body. Image via Austin Memories.

Minki 1 schematic – Minki 2 featured a longer and wider body. Image via Austin Memories.

You’re probably never heard of it, and nor had I until comparatively recently. Minki was a Rover K-Series engined Mini re-engineered with interconnected hydragas suspension, much like that of Dr Alex Moulton’s own modified Mini – and a hatchback. Built to suggest a possible developmental direction for the ageing original, time ran out for the concept, given Mini’s possible sales volumes versus the costs involved. Continue reading

Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 6

DTW Goes Hunting

RR Hunting Car 01

I’ve previously mentioned my fickleness regarding cars. In the morning I fancy a luxury barge, by the afternoon I want a beach buggy. Here is something that fills both criteria, a hunting car built for the King of Morocco by the ever resourceful Sbarro.

http://home.mobile.de/MICHAEL-FROEHLICH#des_51923131 Continue reading

Champagne Supernova – MINI Cooper

P0008757

If Cool Britannia was a car, it would be this…

A latter-day reassessment of BMW’s MINI remake

There’s always been a faint whiff of the tribute act about the band Oasis, a sense that perhaps it was all a bit better the first time around. To be honest, I’ve tended to view the BMW-funded iteration of the Mini with similar ambivalence, on the back of formative experiences with the Issigonis original. However, long-term acquaintance with my sister’s 2006 Cooper; a car I drive on regular visits to Ireland has hardened my views about BMW-Rover’s retro reboot.  Continue reading

Theme: Secondhand – Opinions

I had quite a lot of those bits of received wisdom until recent years. Some of those shopworn gems include the idea that steering should be heavy, Opel make bad/dull/boring cars, Ferrari is interesting but Japanese cars are not;  small saloon cars are drab, six speed gearboxes are a good thing,  low profile tyres and big wheels are visually worth it, bright colour is wrong inside and out.

1976 Porsche 928 interiorThose are some of the bits of second hand wisdom I have accumulated and sloughed off. Car journalism is full of ideas like these that hang waiting on pegs ready to be re-used so as to avoid any new thinking to be done. I notice that most of the shopworn, secondhand ideas I have ditched are the ones adhered to by the anorak-wearing types who like loud and speedy cars. On the one hand the visual aggression and assertive character of these cars is seemingly untraditional and exciting and “youthy”.  In another sense, these ideas form a deeply rigid and conservative canon that many car journalists subscribe to. Continue reading

A photo for Sunday – 1984 Toyota Land Cruiser (J40)

I can´t figure this out. It´s a J40 Toyota Landcruiser, last in production in 1984. This one looked as if it was brand new. That means it´s been restored, which is not something I´d ever expect of a Toyota. Then there was another curious detail in the surrounding circumstances…

1960-1984 Toyota Land Cruiser (J40) seen in Copenhagen, Denmark.

1960-1984 Toyota Land Cruiser (J40) seen in Copenhagen, Denmark.

…an immaculate J80 Land Cruiser stood a few cars up the way. Toyota made the J80 from 1990 to 1997 and is styled in entirely the same way as a Toyota Corolla. Owners of Continue reading

Theme : Secondhand : Forecourt Temptations 5

DTW Admires Panhard …. Yet Again

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Wim Polman in the Netherlands are offering this very fine 1960 Panhard PL17 described as having original paint and just 19,633 km. Is that possible? Well, although it would be easy to restore bodywork, look at the excellent state of the plastic instrument nacelle. All these details are the things that it is near impossible to restore perfectly on a well-used car, unless you spend disproportionate amounts of money.

So, although €21,950 might seem high and I’d want to know a bit more about its history, I think it unlikely you’d find a better looking early version of this beautifully detailed, 851cc twin, six-seater, Monte Carlo Rally winning French saloon.

View It Here.

Something Rotten In Denmark: 1976 Audi 80 two door

This is a good one: cherishably bad photos from the school of Douglas Land-Windermere.  The car itself is going for 40,000 kr or about €5400 and seems to be in good condition. The question is…

1976 Audi 80

1976 Audi 80

…why the oddly cropped photos? You don´t see very many of these 70s Audis and the price being asked is on the high side for what is a quite uninteresting car. You´d think they would do more to sell its limited charms.

The Audi 80 existed as a competitor for the Opel Ascona and Ford Taunus. While it seems visually innocuous and rather unexciting technically, it managed to gain the European Car of the Year award in 1973. That was the same year Alfa Romeo offered the technically advanced Alfetta which had legendary handling to

Continue reading

2015 Ford Mondeo Vignale – what Autocar says

It´s faint praise time for Ford again. Autocar have tested the Vignale version and came to a predictable conclusion. Yes, they like it but they still think you should buy a BMW 5 instead. Auto Express take an even harder line.

2015 Ford Mondeo Vignale

2015 Ford Mondeo Vignale

You can read the entire Autocar article yourself by clicking on the link above. What struck me was that the Vignale is clearly the Ghia X for our times. The key mistake they have made with this car is that it is lacking a distinctive, mechanical difference from the Titanium spec models that sit below it in the model hierarchy.  I would dearly have liked this car to Continue reading

Rolls Royce unveil some brilliantly purple prose

It´s a slow day in the news department when the unveiling of a new name counts as reportable material. But the name in question is “Dawn”. That´s not a new staff member at Rolls Royce but the name of their forthcoming drophead. This is what Rolls-Royce had to say:

A 1950 Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn: favcar.com.

A 1950 Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn: favcar.com.

‘Dawn’ perfectly expresses the character of the new Rolls-Royce. In its tentative, inchoate, anticipatory state, dawn is the world coming to light from the ethereal dark of the night. The early-day chill of dawn provides an erotic tingle on the skin, awakening the senses and passions as the day begins. Like Eleanor Thornton, thought by many to be the inspiration behind the Spirit of Ecstasy, the Rolls-Royce Dawn will also prove itself to be the muse that leads its owner to believe that at the start of the day, anything is possible.

The new Rolls-Royce Dawn is beguilingly visceral. It excites both men and women – they want it, they need it and they want to immerse themselves in it. It is languid and beautiful, fresh and fragrant and awakens the passion of your life.” Continue reading

2015 Renault Clio “Sport Tourer” – Second thoughts

A few weeks ago I tested the Renault Clio dCi “Sport Tourer”. Today I had another chance to sample the exact same model. This time I noticed something else, something about the steering. Something unwelcome. 

Renault Clio Sport Tourer. Not very sporty. Not bad but not sporty: www.renault.dk

Renault Clio Sport Tourer. Not very sporty. Not bad but not sporty: http://www.renault.dk

I observed this:sudden inputs to the steering around the straight ahead don´t result in sudden changes of direction. If you jerk the wheel left the car doesn´t suddenly point left. The car changes direction smoothly after a small, smooth delay. The jerkiness of the input is smothered. It´s not as if the car understeers (in a noticeable way). And it´s not as if there is play in the steering around the straight ahead: every bit of a degree of turning of the wheel encounters resistance. This means that when you Continue reading

Theme: Secondhand – MINI

You may have to forgive me for the somewhat tenuous link to this month’s theme, and I should have probably offered these thoughts whilst we were discussing “retro” (thanks to Richard), but a recent article on another site made me reflect on the plight of Mini, or should that be MINI?

4 generations of Mini/ MINI

Four generations of Mini/ MINI: http://www.caricos.com

I’ll dive straight in and state immediately that I abhor what BMW has done to the design of the Mini. If ever there was a lesson as to what can go wrong with second-hand design, this has to be it. When I see one of the latest generation 3 door hatches (to mention the 5 door would be more gratuitous, but unfair because there never was a 5 door version of Issigonis’s original) something stirs within me, and it’s not nice. Everything about this car’s design is Continue reading

Theme : Secondhand – Forecourts & Small-Ads

A DTW Writer Seeks Professional Help

Road 2

I’ve tried in a previous piece to put forward the many logical reasons for secondhand car ownership. I’d like to think I am that logical person but there’s another side to it.

There are people in this world who have trouble with relationships. Playing The Field, Commitment-Phobic, Philandering, Flirting, call it what you will. People like that get a bad press. Love Rats, Don Juans, Tramps – there are so many nasty names. But I know exactly how those people feel. They walk into a room, see someone and they fall in love. For that instant they are totally honest in their feelings. But tomorrow they meet someone else and …. well. The problem with having that attitude when dealing with other people is, unless you really are both playing by the same rules, someone usually gets hurt and someone else ends up looking abominable. Continue reading

Theme: Secondhand – Rooting in the parts bins

Car advertising (like almost all advertising) commonly emphasises the new and the improved. There is not a single advert drawing attention to the subtle and not-so-subtle second lives of components intended for one car but which lived on in another…and another…and another…

The whole design takes its starting point from the  door handles: www.spannerhead.com

The whole design takes its starting point from the door handles: http://www.spannerhead.com

Last week we discussed the afterlife of the Buick  aluminium 215 engine. Such a re-use is not what I have in mind in terms of rooting around the parts bins. Rover had the decency to rework the engine –endlessly – to make it work so that by the time they had stopped fiddling in 2004 there was little a Buick engineer from 1957 might recognise other than the porosity problems and flagrant thirst.

Some other items of componentry went from their donor car to subsequent applications unchanged. The famous ones include Continue reading

You’re Not Alone, Jaguar

We look closer at European luxury car sales

Large Car Sales Europe

Looking at European sales of the 7 Series, A8, XJ and S Class since 1997 (figures courtesy Left-Lane.com) in chart form is revealing. Of course, each brand’s sales pick up when a new model is released, but the S Class jump with its last three model launches is proportionally huge compared with the others. But as the model becomes established, it sinks to quite similar levels as the A8 and 7 Series. Why is this? One explanation may be the private hire trade. In this a Mercedes is the default choice and, as I heard from one guy who runs his own car, clients don’t like being picked up in a previous model – as soon as the new model becomes available he puts in his order for a car that lasts him 7 years.

But this chart underlines the fact that Jaguar isn’t the only loser. In Europe all sales, even Mercedes are on a downward trend (assuming the current S Class rise shown from 2013 launch will soon reverse) and, in fact, the fall of the 7 Series is steeper than the XJ’s, though an imminent new model will presumably give a respite. Continue reading

Twilight of A Champion Part Three – The Next Leap Forward

jaguar_xj.above

Where now for the big Jaguar?

Over the course of this series we’ve made the assertion that when it comes to full-sized Jaguars, the market is at best apathetic. Throughout Jaguar’s history you’ll find the strongest selling and best-loved models have been compact cars. Even the original XJ began life a relatively close coupled machine, coming into being out of the perceived necessity for a larger, four-seater E-Type and the commercial failure of the Mark Ten. Up to the demise of the X308-XJ series in 2002, it remained broadly faithful to this template – low-slung, snug – a little decadent. Continue reading

The return of the Miller cycle engine

The launch of the Mazda Xedos 9 in 1993 gave James May the chance to joke about Windy Miller when he reviewed the car for Car. The cue for the gag came from the unusual use of the Miller cycle engine in the form of the 2.3 litre KJ-ZEM V6. All those years later the only thing I recall is the weak joke and nothing about the car or the technicalities of the Miller cycle engine.

http://myntransportblog.com/2015/01/11/mazda-cars-light-trucks-and-engines-fuchu-aki-district-hiroshima-prefecture-japan-1920-on/

1995 Mazda Millennia which is like a Xedos 9 but easier to remember: mytransportblog.com

The reason I am bringing all this up is that Audi have been reported here  to be reconsidering the use of the Miller cycle in the chase for better fuel stats. You will find that C&D’s article follows their usual form in providing a clear layman´s interpretation of the Miller cycle engine´s principles, pros and cons. However, I have gone in search of enlightenment so I can present a Continue reading

Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 4

DTW Asks If Small Is Really Beautiful?

Chatenet CH26B

This is one of a bewildering variety of French microcars. I assume it is one owner since it has covered just 11,887 km. That seems modest until you realise that the Chatenet is powered by a 5.4 hp 523cc twin cylinder diesel giving it a maximum speed of 45 kph. Someone therefore has sat in this car and driven it for at least 264 hours. That is the equivalent of over two weeks of one’s waking life. Does the vague looks-a-bit-like-a-mini styling help this masochistic enterprise?

Continue reading

The post-car age – considerations

Thinking about the end of the car age: the Guardian has been running a series asking readers to consider urban life in the future. This article gathers views on life after the car.

This is not we had in mind when private transport was envisaged: theguardian.co.uk

This is not we had in mind when private transport was envisaged: theguardian.co.uk

I have an ambivalent attitude to cars. The image shown here captures one reason why I think cars are monsters and quite possibly the biggest scam ever perpetrated on society. When you arrange everything to suit the car there is nowhere worth going to. Cars by and large worsen all the problems they are meant to solve. Had we been a more prescient society around 1900 the car would be as practical an option today as helicopter travel. If cities had stayed as dense as they were then, the train and some buses and bikes would be all we needed and only a few determined people would Continue reading

Gorfe´s Granadas: 2.8 Ghia Estate Automatic

Myles Gorfe on some of the highlights of the Ford Granada´s career. In this item, Myles considers one of the 80s’ best load luggers, the 2.8 litre Ghia estate.

1983 Ford Granada it its biggest and best: carandclassic.co.uk

1983 Ford Granada at its biggest and best: carandclassic.co.uk

Forget Volvo estates with their boxy looks. And you can forget Mercedes’ over-priced hearses. The 1977-1985 Granada ticked all the boxes: big, fast, comfortable and well-priced. It had more room than the Volvo 240 and Vauxhall didn´t even offer a serious alternative at any price. Citroen´s CX was a technical disaster on four wheels. Peugeot´s 505 was plain ugly and handled like a tugboat in a storm. No, the 1983 Ghia 2.8 automatic´s the pick of the bunch. It has a smoother, softer ride and a quieter engine than the 1977 and even if the German-built V6 lacked the toughness of the Essex unit, it was more than enough to beat off Mercedes’ underpowered and pricey 200E and 230E. Nothing comes close to a Granada for style except a Ghia estate. More Granada for the same sort of money.

That´s not a ball room, that´s the rear load bay of the Ford Granada 2.8 Ghia automatic estate.

That´s not a ball room, that´s the rear load bay of the Ford Granada 2.8 Ghia automatic estate.

If you like the look of this, you can get one  here at Knightcott Motors, well known in the Grannie trade for their top-drawer Fords.

Twilight of A Champion: Part Two – Jaguar’s Zenith

Image via Jag-lovers

The most influential Jaguar ever – from a styling perspective at least. Image via Jag-lovers

The height of Jaguar’s sixties ambitions was this famously unsuccessful saloon.

Several months after the euphoric launch of the E-Type, Jaguar launched this radical saloon, the Mark Ten. Given the project name of Zenith, Mark Ten was a dashingly modern, dramatically styled whale of a car; conceived for the lucrative American market. Famed for his astute judgement of the market, Sir William Lyons didn’t believe in customer clinics or product planning, having firmly held ideas about what he wanted. Zenith was his idea of a full-sized luxury Jaguar, bigger, more opulent and more technically sophisticated than anything yet produced. Continue reading

Unforgettting: 2003-2007 Chrysler Crossfire

One of these cars flashed past me today, prompting this small item. Now that I come to think of it, there was one parked on my road a few years back. It was the Chrysler Crossfire (2003-2007).

2003 Chrysler Crossfire. In 2003 it cost £1000 more than the faster Nissan 350Z: yakmee.com

2003 Chrysler Crossfire. In 2003 it cost £1000 more than the faster Nissan 350Z: yakmee.com

We all have small car moments, don´t we?  For reasons unclear, our synapses fizz and fuse a little harder when we see a car and forever more the image, time, feeling and moment are irremovably etched on our memories. It´s a wholly random process, note. Some of my car moments involve worthless heaps of mediocrity. The Chrysler Crossfire is taking up some of my limited and diminishing RAM with a set of memories related to seeing one parked in a shopping centre somewhere in Mainz. I was with a friend who was working in the car industry. Seeing a Crossfire in the metal offered a chance to talk shop.  We had both been reading about the Crossfire which had generated a considerable buzz. There it was, on a stand and we both peered closely at the point on the bodywork where the feature lines cross-over. The surface didn´t look right. I winced. If you recall, the name of the car was supposed to Continue reading

Theme: Secondhand- The Rover V8

The story of how the Buick alumium 215 engine became the Rover V8 is often-enough told so I will use this little posting mostly as a short guide to some of the most entertaining versions. Sold to to Rover, the engine powered Range Rovers, Rovers, MGs and TVRs along with Morgan.

1986 Rover P6 V8 3500: theworldaccordingtomaggie.com

1986 Rover P6 V8 3500: theworldaccordingtomaggie.com

Jalopnik has a good short version of the story here In a nutshell, Buick wanted a lightweight, small capacity V8. They decided to use aluminium which led to a chain of problems that were still being dealt with 40 years later. Among those problems are slipping liners and porosity. If you scroll down the comments at the Jalopnik article you´ll find a neat list of V8 engines used by GM in the late 60s.   Continue reading

Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 3

DTW Looks At The Used XJ Market

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Big secondhand cars are a bargain – until they go wrong. This one owner, 4 year old, dark grey XJ has done just 30,000 miles and could be yours for £19,880, almost 1/3 of its cost new today. Personally I wouldn’t choose the 3.0 litre diesel version, the idiot in me would look further up the scale on Autotrader for an entirely inappropriate Supersport. Otherwise, there’s an 8 year old X350 at just 28,000 miles for just under £13,000. In any case, the XJ looks like it is shaping up to be the wedding car of the next decade.

View It Here.

Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 2

DTW comes across a perennial favourite

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For sale from Auta Motol in Prague, this Tatra 603-2 might have had several keepers over half a century but qualifies as secondhand having done just 1,900 km since restoration. DTW have lusted after these cars since first encountering them in the then Czechoslovakia back in Communist days. Like the Citroen DS, they are unfortunately popular as fashion accessories among those whose motoring enthusiasm is slight. This not only pushes up prices, but can mean that a restoration is no more than skin deep.

We have no reason to believe that is the case with this particular example on offer at 35,900 Euros and, if it is mechanically perfect, then this is what you might have to pay now for a car you could have picked up ten years ago for well under 10,000 Euros. Is it worth it? Well, if you want a Tatra, there isn’t really an alternative unless you stretch a Beetle and bung a Porsche flat 6 in the back, so you pay what they ask. Someone else has a neglected looking one in a field at 9,000 Euros but, unless you are keen on DIY and don’t cost your own time, the above might be the better deal.

The same dealer is also offering Tatra’s final model, a rare 1996 T700, for 49,000 Euros but, at 175,600 km I’d go for the older car.

View It Here.

Twilight of A Champion – The Decline of the Jaguar XJ

Gratuitous hero shot of X351 ahoy! The remarkably unsuccessful XJ. Image via topnewsupercars

Gratuitous hero shot of X351 ahoy! Remarkably unsuccessful. Image via topnewsupercars

As the world’s least influential Jaguar commentator, I’ve been pointing out Jaguar’s Groundhog Day tendencies for some time. Back in 2009, I drew comparison between the then new (X351-series) XJ and its distant forebear, the 1961 Mark Ten saloon. The nub of my argument being the new model could not be judged against any prior XJ series, rather that it should be viewed through the prism of its unloved sixties progenitor. Some five years on, it pains me to suggest the new XJ is cleaving to the Mark Ten template more faithfully than anticipated; easily as disheartening a commercial failure as Jaguar’s former flagship. Continue reading

The next Astra is already being tested

The 11th generation of the Astra on its way. Autocar were allowed to test a disguised prototype and reported on the apparent changes in comparison with the outgoing car.

2015 Opel Astra estate: www.opel.de

2015 Opel Astra estate: http://www.opel.de

The next Astra is going to be smaller and lighter but roomier inside. I am a little anxious that the next car is going to be less pleasant to look at than the current car which I regard fondly, especially in bechromed estate guise. However, one compensation is that Opel intend the new Astra to dispel the lingering criticism that they are duller to drive than its arch enemy, the Ford Focus. How will they do this? Continue reading

Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 1

Unloved and Desirable

Alfa 6 B

In parallel with this Month’s Theme, we will be presenting a few choice options from the dealer’s forecourts. Number one is this example of the scorned Alfa 6. For some reason Alfa Romeo felt obliged to build a large car, but approached it with little enthusiasm, though it was the car that introduced Alfa’s fine V6 engine in 2.5 litre, single-cam form.

This example is being sold by a company called Joker Pilot, north of Paris, who we have come across before. It is a Series 2 version with fuel injection and is genuinely secondhand, with just one owner and 45,900 km to its name.  As such, it would be hard to find a better example on paper, should you be taken with it – which we certainly are.

View it here.

Alfa 6 C

They are all at it now (nearly)

A recent announcement by Aston Martin that it will go off road soon confirms that the ranks of aristo SUV´s are now filled, just about. Anything is now possible.

2017 Rolls Royce Cullinan: techviewon.com

2017 Rolls Royce Cullinan: techviewon.com

The Cadillac Escalade arrived first in 1999, an SUV from a marque known for limousines and stately sedans. Because Cadillac´s brand value lay in the ditch by then, nobody minded much: more kitsch, they said. However, it was an inspirational move from a brand that has often – though unintentionally – led the way. Lincoln dressed up a Ford pick-up to make it into the Blackwood in 2001 and got a three year run before really

Continue reading

Design Rationalism III

We have been discussing design rationalism lately. A lot of my visual analyses have focussed on the main linear elements and graphics. This photo taken early in the morning captures a subtle, sculptural element on the VAG city car body.

 

2014 VW Up

2014 VW Up

Notice the shadow on the doors, to the rear of the shutline. This shows that the bodyside is gently curved outwards; it is most curved just under the window line and if you inspect the window sill by looking down the car, parallel to the centre line, it bows outwards. The curve fades away downward. The shape is reminiscent of the hull of a boat. The point I want to make is that you should  Continue reading

Sightings: 2006 Chevrolet Impala

An evening walk in central Copenhagen led to the discovery of this: a Chevrolet Impala.

2006 Chevrolet Impala in Copenhagen

2006 Chevrolet Impala in Copenhagen

I missed it as I walked within 5 metres of it but caught it as I walked back on the opposite side of the road. Chevrolet launched this version of the Impala in 2006 and it is still in production. It is based on the W-body which dates to 1986 though that platform has been revised a few times since then. It´s made in Canada and features a 3.5 litre V6 driving the front wheels. The grille is determinedly oblong, as characterless as a Fiat Croma II. I noticed Continue reading

Theme : Secondhand – On The Romance Of Certain Old Cars

Why Buy New?

Used SM

The past few years have been difficult for manufacturers trying to sell new cars in Europe. But, even if people can’t afford them, one thing car makers take for granted is that everyone likes a new car.  How many new cars have you sat in as the first driver? I’ve sat in a lot, not because I’d bought most of them, but because I once delivered them as a job. But when the car is yours it’s something else, that very special moment you’ve been waiting weeks, months or, sometimes, years for.

Continue reading

Rearview: Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina

Alfetta-1

While FCA’s Italian engineers have undoubtedly being imbibing industrial quantities of Alfa lore as they develop their forthcoming saloon, they’re unlikely to have this print ad posted up on their mood board. Perhaps they should, because journalistic hyperbole aside, it illustrates as eloquently as anything I can say not only how far Alfa Romeo has fallen since the early 1970’s, but how steep a climb FCA’s engineers now face. Continue reading

ATS-V: Cadillac´s finally cracked it, partly.

….says Car and Driver. Not naming. I had to keep the name of the car in front of my face so as to remember it. But they have finally made a car with real dynamic credentials. But does it have to look like a Chevrolet Cruze with aftermarket accessories? 

2015 Cadillac ATS-V. Image: car and driver

2015 Cadillac ATS-V. Image: car and driver

I recommend you read C&D´s review of the car to get the full insight on the engineering efforts Cadillac have made to produce this car. I am impressed by C&D ´s own dedication to reporting the work and showing images to explain it. It´s a fine bit of automotive journalism. Try this: Continue reading

Bridesmaid Revisited – Marchionne Hits the Panic Button

Why won't anybody dance with me, wails Sergio? Image via Bloomberg

Why won’t anybody dance with me? Image via Bloomberg

FCA’s perennial wallflower lashes out.

We’ve all had to cope with rejection at some point in our lives – smiling through the tears, while we peel our shattered egos off the floor. But no stoic is our Sergio. Far from taking it on the chin, he’s gone on the offensive, raging to industry analysts this week at the unfairness of it all. Has he gone mad? Continue reading

Theme : Secondhand – Introduction

The Editor considers the less-than-new

Secondhand. It isn’t a word with a lot of cachet is it? For goods It suggests that someone else got there first, enjoyed the best of it and has left you with the frayed remains. For ideas it suggests that there is nothing new or original, that everything about it is derived from something better. And it gets worse. Third-hand has even less cachet but, for the purpose of this month’s theme, we will make no distinction regarding the quantity of prior keepers, and ‘secondhand’ is certainly a more forthright description of an object than the weaselly and presumptuous ‘preloved’ of modern usage.

But this scorn for the used object is a relatively new way of thinking. The worshipping of the new was not always so. Before industry became the ravenous monster it is now, with an insatiable appetite for our custom, the item that had been owned by someone else had no stigma attached. Objects were passed from parent to child and valued as such and, since technology in many areas hardly altered, there was little incentive to replace something until it became irreparable.

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Theme: Roads – the end of

We take a short look back at the points raised in the theme of the month about to pass.Street signIn the opening essay , I asked what are cars without roads to run them on. I also asked “What are those roads and why do they appeal? How do cars and roads relate? Is there a link between geology and the skills of a country´s chassis engineers?” We had some insightful comments from Sean, Eoin, SV and our regular guests, none of which answered those questions. First to tackle the theme, five days into the month was Sean Patrick who described the Grossglockner pass in Austria, the kind of road which Continue reading

Our cars: 1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L

Run by: Myles Gorfe. Total Mileage: 299,914. Miles since March 2015: 3. Latest costs: £169 for refitting door hinges, £74.01 for harness work. £23 for replacing the gear lever bezel, £12 for tightening the rear-view mirror ball joint, £19 for oil and adjusting the oil filter, £20 for clearing fuel line and £100 for clearing sawdust and sand from air intake, £50 for the flat bed truck, £490 for cutting, welding, filling and painting of c-pillar rust problem. £120 for fuel pumps (plus fitting).

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 repaired the passenger door hinge and adjusted the detente. Under-lubrication with the wrong grade of oil meant the old ones wore prematurely.

A short discussion with Gavin Chide resulted in his astronomical harness work bill being re-issued. The original bill for £7,401 should have been Continue reading

This one is really about car advertising

….and not the Renault Espace. To launch the new Espace, the actor Kevin Spacey is being used in the advertising campaign. And so is the Guggenheim in Bilbao. And a lot of clichees.

2016 Renualt Espace with Kevin Spacey pasted in.  I assume that´s the Guggenheim and not just a pastiche.

2016 Renault Espace with Kevin Spacey pasted in.
I assume that´s the Guggenheim and not just a pastiche. The shadow is wrong, isn´t it? If the lens flare was real, the shadow should be angled from his feet in the direction 7 or 8 o´clock.

A few things arise from this. I´ll start with the background. It is another one of those sterile and highly unrealistic images where every pixel of the original photography has seemingly been removed, polished and improved so that the final image is utterly divorced from reality. I don´t believe in this picture. I don´t believe Continue reading

2015 Renault Clio “Sports Tourer” dCi road test

I have a bit of a soft spot for small estate cars. DTW has tested the popular Renault Clio “Sports Tourer” dCI which is a small estate car. What was revealed in the course of 361 kilometres? What??

2015 Renault Clio dCi in the DTW garage.

2015 Renault Clio dCi in the DTW garage.

The Renault Clio has proved to be a successful entrant in the small car market and the estate version is as numerous (to judge by its ubiquity) as the “standard” five door body. Is there a difference? Yes, one you can measure and feel. The estate´s maximum boot volume is 439 litres compared to the 300 litres of the normal car. Both models have the same wheel base. With the rear seats folded down, the volume rises from 1038 litres of the standard car to 1277 litres in the “sports tourer” or station wagon. You can see why people are Continue reading

Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton

Image via carspecsreview

Image via carspecsreview

Personifying Piëch?

Phaeton. As a name it never really struck the right note. A little too puffed-up, ever so slightly grandiose for what is a rather self-effacing car. Perhaps in the absence of a suitably important-sounding wind, VW lacked options, or it was just another of Dr. Piëch’s flights of self-aggrandisement.  Continue reading

Some highlights of the 2015 Shanghai Auto show II

I did some more rooting around for oddities from the Shanghai Auto Show. This is the Geely Emgrand GE, a rather shameless Rolls-Royce copy with a grille inspired by Buick. The headlamps curved shapes are not sitting happily there, are they?

Is that Photoshop? That background looks decidedly British but I doubt an Emgrand GE was shipped to the UK and shown just to make this photo possible.  Image: autoblog.it

Is that Photoshop? That background looks decidedly British but I doubt an Emgrand GE was shipped to the UK and shown just to make this photo possible. Image: autoblog.it

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Some highlights from the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show

The team at Australia´s Drive have put together an interesting listicle of some cars they consider worth our attention. 

2015 Chery A5 concept: www.drive.au

2015 Chery A5 concept: http://www.drive.au. That´s quite neat, isn´t it? And the colour is good.

I picked two to show here. One is the Haval Concept R which has some rather wobbly highlights down the side but has a quite pleasing graphical arrangement at the front. Continue reading

A photo for Sunday: 1990 Alfa Romeo 75 Twin Spark

Alfa Romeo first showed the 75 in ’85. It replaced the Giulietta. Alfa Romeo´s in-house styling department handled the exterior and interior which explains the marked eccentricity. It does have a lot of lines down the side (not much parallelism) and most versions had a black plastic strip running along from nose to tail. I’ve only seen one 75 with no plastic, a base model French-market car.

1990 Alfa Romeo 75. Not very rusty.

1990 Alfa Romeo 75. Not very rusty.

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Theme: Roads – Chris Rea´s “Road to Hell”

Everyone has a skeleton of some form in their cupboard. Among the bones in my ossuory is the fact I sought, bought and listened to Chris Rea´s Road to Hell.

Chris Rea´s

Chris Rea´s “Road To Hell”. This is a rather bad bit of photo realism. Image: pixgood.com

The album is from 1989 and does not fit in with the other material I listened to at the time which included the Fatima Mansions first EP “Against Nature”, The The (“Mind Bomb” and “Infected”) and various random bits of 20th century classical music, as I recall. Plus the Housemartins. I still see the Beautiful South as Continue reading

Renault´s Design Rationalism: the 1986 R21 analysed

To finish the French part of this discussion, here is the 1986 Renault 21. While there is some room for interpretation in the exact angle of these lines, the overall theme is clear. Parallel lines govern the bodyside. They are almost equally spaced too. The apex of the triangle formed by the windscreen and rear window is almost symmetrically located. Both of these characters indicate a lack of underlying dynamism in this car. Notice a faint nod to aerodynamism in the partly covered rear wheel arch. It´s not uncoincidental that there are very few side profiles of this car and the Google images search quickly runs dry. In comparison both the 405 and BX have a vibrant net presence. The message here is that Renault´s  design is severe and without any noticeable accent. That´s rationalism taken too far: it is off-putting and uninteresting while the 405, BX and 80 continued to fascinate. Does this car remind anyone of the Nissan Sunny estate we discussed in November? I think it may be irrational to be solely rational: people like a bit of emotion. 1990 Renault 21 profile

Images of this are so rare I had to use this one with the dumb logo planted on the middle of the door.

Images of this are so rare I had to use this one with the dumb logo planted on the middle of the door.

Rearview: An early Piëch at an Audi

Ferdi 006With reports earlier this week suggesting Ferdinand Piëch has threatened to resign over his failed attempt to oust VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, it’s as good a time as any to look at possibly his earliest appearance in the UK press. Continue reading