Theme: Facelifts – Bodylifts

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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 19.39.11

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Theme : Facelifts – Does Your Car Pass the Facelift Test?

Could there be anything wrong with trying to design cars that can avoid an automotive face-lift?

2004 Toyota Avensis

2004 Toyota Avensis

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

Theme: Facelifts – Winning the Battle, Losing the War

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…

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Theme : Facelifts – Bristol Cars and Facelifts as a Way of Life

1958 Bristol 406

1958 Bristol 406

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.

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Theme : Facelifts – The Loewy Studebaker

You can’t polish a turd, but you can sully a diamond

53 Studebaker Starliner Side

1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner

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 Champion, Continue reading

Reflections on Chrome

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.

1960s Mercedes S-class

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

Unforgetting : 1981 Talbot Tagora

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.

1981 Talbot Tagora

1981 Talbot Tagora

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:

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Arriving – Or Just Travelling Hopefully?

How to define a car

On A Road

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.

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Theme: Facelifts – Dîner pour Chiens -

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

Critical Faculties: 2010 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 5-door

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.

2010 Ford Mondeo TDCi

2010 Ford Mondeo TDCi

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

Engineering as Marketing : 2010 Renault Megane Review

 DTW tries on a little silver number from Renault

2010 Renault Megane

2010 Renault Megane

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

History Repeating – XJ40 Phase one – 1968-1975

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

Northward Bound

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. 2014 Nordkapp with motor bikes 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

Theme : Facelifts – New Adventures in Rhinoplasty

0373198-Mercedes-Benz-SL-600-2006Today’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

The Truth About Cars on the Renault Espace in Brazil

Renault Espace I 1984

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)

Theme : Facelifts – Fiat’s Facelift Fiascos

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.

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Theme : Facelifts – Second Coming

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.

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Theme : Facelifts – Making an Arse of it


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

Theme : Facelifts – A Facelift Better Than the Car It Was Meant To Save

How Bill Porter turned the sow´s ear of the 1986 Buick Riviera into something so much better.

1990 Buick Riviera

1990 Buick Riviera

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

Cars I can´t write about 4: the 2014 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-R

I am unable to address the Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4.2014 Lamborghini collage

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

Theme : Facelifts – Introduction

The Editor Reflects on the Need for Change

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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.

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Cars I can´t write about 3: 2014 VW Passat

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.

2014 Passat collage

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

Cars I can´t write about 2: Porsche

Some cars defy one´s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. Here´s another, a Porsche of some type.2014 Porsche collage

There was a 1970s example of one of these things parked on the road today. They are very rare around my district. I chose to look at a Vectra parked one space ahead of it. I ´ve always admired the 2002 model’s headlamp design. When I was in Germany at Easter I saw a rare high-spect 2002 saloon in green metallic that made me catch my breath. The Porsche, on the other hand, doesn´t say anything. I can imagine a comfortable life trickling around in a Vectra, not being very bothered by much and enjoying the Opel´s robust easy-going nature. And when it breaks and dies, I might not feel bereaved. Expensive sports cars on the other hand don´t move me. Even if I was very rich indeed I really would not consider buying one or even trying one. If I was very rich I would buy a whole showroom of used Vectras and park them in a barn as an exercise in conceptual art.

What the sports car offers I don´t yearn for. I can´t address the excellence of the engineering solutions because I feel the Porsche guys just spent their way out of the problem. If you show me a €10,000 car that does 0-60 in 5 seconds I would really be interested to know how that was done. But if the solution involves burying the problem with consultancy time and rare metals then I feel this as interesting as taking a taxi along the pilgrim´s route in Spain. And by the way, the Porsche is rubbish at carrying things. The life I imagine involves some suitcases and these fit better into a 2002 Vectra. Finally, I can´t address the styling of the Porsche as it is neither good nor bad, a bit like a pebble on a beach.

Cars I can´t write about 1: 1996-2002 Mazda Demio

Some cars defy one´s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms.  One of them is the 1996 Mazda Demio.

1996 Mada demio

Here at DTW we spend a lot of time staring into the walls trying to fight off the ideas that spring up. The problem is that there are more ideas than time to do them justice. I´ve just blown three hours of my life penning a tract about Buicks and Opels. This was based on half a thought about the Opel Astra saloon that nobody cares about. How then can I say anything about the 1996 Mazda Demio which even I don´t care about?

This leads me to what I think writing theorists call a meta-problem and what I think is a meta-text: what I don´t write about and can´t is leading me to write something. Can I give a shape to the void left by certain cars and by so doing find out something positive? Continue reading

Cross-currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan

How do we get from China to Warren, Michigan via Rüsselsheim? By Astra, of course.

2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China

2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China (in some form)

In the late 70s the science journalist James Burke had an engaging series of programmes called Connections. It traced the links, innovations and the important contingencies that led from the distant past to the technology that we take for granted around us, such as plastic, for example. Behind the invention of this material lay the story of how the 17th Century Dutch preferred not to build warships but bulk carriers called hoorns; how the efficiency of these boosted the volume of trade which led to a need for more sophisticated finance methods… Continue reading

1986 Volvo 360 GLT Review

Pantomime horses: just how good is the 1986 Volvo 360 GLT?

[This transcript from A&PD monthly has turned up and deserves wider circulation, as it appears to be an intimation of the strident tones and robust exaggeration that came to characterise motoring journalism of the last two decades.]

1986 Volvo 360 GLT

by Roderick Darndon-Dramb. Photography by Bart Chappel. From “Autocarriage & Performance Drivercar”  (March 1986).

The advertising says this is the Volvo that thinks it´s a Porsche. Clearly Volvo wants us to see this car as the driver´s choice. The people at Volvo have lost their minds. The 360′s aerodynamics remain submerged below the bottom of the league. The exterior is reminiscent of the Seagram Building rather than an F-40 jet. This is not a Porker.

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History Repeating: XJ40 Phase one – 1968-1975

XJ6brochurePart one – A new Jag generation: The story of XJ40 is in many ways as protracted and arduous as the car’s fourteen year gestation. In this first part, we examine the landscape within Jaguar in the early 1970′s as the initial concept coalesced and the first styling ideas took form.

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Death has a revolving door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen

Daihatsu´s Japanese production declines for the first time in 8 months…

2014 Daihatsu Copen concept

…but production overseas increased to compensate. And generally sales are down overall. Daihatsu gave up on Europe a few years back so the news that the Copen sportscar is to be revived may not do so very much to improve the sales picture.  Still, it´s nice to imagine. What sort of a range does the Copen fit into? There is the Terios hatchback in five and seven seater guise, the Sirion hatchback and the Gran Max van which also comes as a pick-up.  That make the Copen something of an outsider in a range of very practical vehicles, but it is still at least as small as the others. Continue reading

Something Rotten In Denmark: 1986 Peugeot 505

Sold in large numbers and once part of the corporate car-park, the 505 is now a rarity. But here is one example that almost looks attractive. But looks deceive. 1986 Peugeot 505

PSA launched the 505 in 1979 with the purpose of providing a product in their middle ranks to replace the venerable 504. What the ´05 succeeded in doing was killing off interest in the 604 which had been on sale and doing quite well since 1976. The 505 was very slightly smaller and about 30% cheaper than the 604 and  lot easier on the eye; the main differences between the two cars were that the newcomer lacked the messy dashboard and thirsty V6. The 505 range offered all the engines the 604 could and should have had. What Peugeot forgot to do was to

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Theme : Speed – VELOcity

In praise of the racing bicycle

smithfieldveloThe sensation of speed is often as much a function of proximity as it is of exposure. The less there is between you and the road below, the more immersive the experience, as any sportscar owner will tell you as he attempts to draw your attention from the rain soaked, hand-tooled moccasins he knew he shouldn’t have worn. But really, if you want to experience speed in its most unadulterated form, the racing bicycle stands supreme.

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High Concept – Ghia’s 1992 Focus

92ghia_ford_focus_09So many car design concepts intrigue and delight upon initial viewing but most date quickly and poorly. A notable exception to this tacit truism sits opposite: The 1992 Ghia Focus. First displayed at that year’s Turin Motor show to rapturous acclaim, it was a compact barchetta style roadster, and it’s radical form language prefigured a new direction for Ford. Its influence however, would ultimately extend further beyond Ford’s Dearborn, Dunton, Merkenich and Turin studios.   Continue reading

1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo

Design Footnote: somewhere inside Ford, someone nodded quietly to the firm´s past.

2005 Ford Mondeo

2005 Ford Mondeo

A few months back, while studying the parked cars in my area, I noticed that there was something deeper to the design of late-model Ford Mondeo Mk2s. Not very many cars have a solution that avoids both a horizontal and a vertical wraparound at the front end. The 2005 Mondeo has a design where the strongest line runs down the edge of the wing, down the lights and then goes horizontal under the valence, requiring a twist from forward to sideways mediated by a vertical descent. Usually the bumper and bumperettes interfere with this sort of a fold line being so clear. For this (and its generally extremely handsome, reserved form) the Mondeo deserves a credit. Continue reading

Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof

How much fun do you really get out of driving like you stole it?

1990 peugeot-205-

Speed is a measurable quantity. One of the characteristics of the modern age is the increasing dominance of quantity over quality. I see the two as dependent parameters, as necessary as the left and right wing of a jet. In the spirit of the times motoring journalism in recent years has tended to focus on the measurable and to underplay the quality of speed. Perhaps more precisely, they underplay the quality of motion. If you take the time to read a review of almost any very fast car you can find shards of  statistics but very little intelligible insight on the character of the driving experience beyond attempts at subjective descriptions of on-the-limit handling. Continue reading

History Repeating – The Tragedy of Jaguar’s XJ40 – (Introduction)

XJ81sunsetWith XJ40, Jaguar came within a whisker of glory, before cruel fate’s intervention. But how much of a failed feline was it really?  

In this series, we’ll examine the car’s lengthy and torturous gestation, the circumstances surrounding its development and its ongoing significance to the wider Jaguar narrative…  Continue reading

Something Rotten in Denmark : 1962 DKW Junior

You´ve come a long way, baby. So goes the cliche. How far then?

1962 DKW

Glostrup Cars in Denmark are selling this two-stroke body-on-frame fossil for just under €10,000. Introduced in 1959, the Juniors (renamed F11 or F12) were discontinued in 1965 when VW bought the firm, ending DKW´s post-war association with Mercedes*. These diminutive DKWs were built in Ingolstadt, at a new factory. The car´s run ended when it became clear that it was just not up to facing the competition presented by VW´s Beetle and Opel´s smaller cars (possibly the 1962 Kadett). Interestingly, the Junior was a cut above the Beetle, offering a bigger boot and faster cabin heating than the people´s car but it cost that bit more. In one sense you can see Audi´s precursor being a slightly more prestigious product than its peers. Yet, even taking into account the technology of the day, the Junior looks a lot more toy-like and agricultural than similar cars at this price. The two-stroke engine, in particular, was even rougher, noisier and smellier than VW´s air-cooled nail though. It´s hard to see where this car lies in Audi´s product evolution but perhaps we can say it was the precursor of the current A3, in which case we can say that a lot has happened to Audi in the intervening period but some things have stayed the same.

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Social Signifiers

Which cars are for today´s ophthalmologists, vets and professors of Medieval law? 

For Prof. Castiglione

For Prof. Castiglione

About three decades ago certain makers sold cars for easily identifiable groups in society. Saabs were for well-paid university lecturers. Citroen could appeal to the Francophile and arty middle-class man. Lancia sold to intellectuals and business men who probably saw their work as a vocation. Humber appealed to bank managers of the bigger branches. But today, these brands are gone or unrecognisable. I was trying to think of appropriate cars for these people and I could see all of them in a Ford, an Opel or an Audi. Or a BMW. They are quite interchangeable. It´s hard to convincingly think of a car for the intellectual motorist (if there is such a thing, present company excluded). By chance a Nissan Leaf caught my attention and perhaps this car might have a rather specific niche in the market. The owner came by and in the course of a short chat revealed he was

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Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)

A quick drive in Maserati’s ultimate saloon.

photoToday I had the chance to experience a car I consider to be among the most disappointing of recent years – the successor to the flawed yet glorious Quattroporte V. Gone is the lithe elegance of Ken Okuyama’s styling, making way for considerably more competitive technology, as well as simply gargantuan proportions.

It really is an ungainly-looking barge, trying to marry its enormous size with some stylistic nods to its predecessor. The result I’d consider something akin to Jaguar’s unfortunate X350 XJ – an ill-advised pastiche, borne by the misconception that certain cues are independent of scale and proportions. If I want a giant Maserati, I’d personally go for Giugiaro’s Mk III version instead, in all its Passat-on-steroids glory.

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Audi – Always the Pretender?

Auto Union Type C

And What Is Wrong With Putting the Engine in Front of the Wheels?

Audi are in danger of becoming the Phil Collins of the petrolhead world, an act that even people who know little about music like to cite as being a bit off. Speaking as someone who can, hand on heart, swear that he has no murky Genesis related skeletons in his youthful musical vinyl rack and hopes he’ll never hear Against All Odds on the radio again, I’d judge that Mr Collins is no worse than many, and better than scores. Changing fashion means that he has just become a lazy symbol for bad comedians and the generally undiscerning to latch on to in order to suggest, quite undeservedly, their musical connoisseurship. Likewise Audi. In bars and on motoring websites everywhere, you will hear the drone of “overrated and overpriced …. style over content …. they’re all designed on a photocopier …. no driver involvement ….. they’ll never really be premier league until they go rear drive”. Is any of this justified?

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A Question of Form

centro stile alfa romeoHas Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance? This is the question I found myself asking having read Kris Kubrick’s recent piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for everything worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting auto-nerd would at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what we have here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who was responsible for their styling*Continue reading

1961 Fiat 2300 S Coupe : A Short Film

Fiat 2300S Coupe

While reading about the Humber Super Snipe and its competitors I stumbled across this very nicely filmed piece about a Fiat 2300S and its owner, Pierantonio Micciarelli. I have to say that the man´s elegant dress sense made me yearn to be Italian. They do know how to choose their threads.

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Theme : Speed – Introduction

June’s Theme : The Editor Posts Some Thoughts on Speed

Aston DB4We get used to thinking that we, meaning whoever amongst us are young and fit enough to command the technology, are probably the best informed and highest achieving people in history. The knowledge and achievements of our forebears, though impressive perhaps in the context of their age, pales in absolute comparison with our own. Such is the arrogance of The Present and, though it might not have always been this way, it seems set to remain.

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Theme : Badging – A Badge Can Speak a Thousand Words

ChevronsA few years ago, brand consultants Landor redesigned the Citroën logo to be more rounded and, in their words, ‘liquid’. That is a strange adjective, since the chevrons famously represented the helical gear teeth that André Citroën patented and whose success he built his company on. In their current form the chevrons no longer seem to suggest precise technology and, therefore, it could be argued that Landor has done its job well in capturing the essence of 21st Century Citroën.

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Death Has a Revolving Door 2 : MG Revive Sportscar Revival Plans

If you should tire of Alfa Romeo´s latest new plans, Morris Garages (MG) have perhaps a more credible alternative set of ambitions reported today, a new roadster.

2014 MG Icon concept: they are not building this

2012 MG Icon concept: they are not building this

Coincidental to my recent posting on returns from the grave, MG has announced a plan to revive its MG roadsters, with a view to returning to the US market. Edmunds´ journalist Richard Bremner reported that SAIC, owners of MG, have revealed this much without any supporting illustrations of the mooted car**.  Continue reading

Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic

An evolving thread examining the change-over from metal and glass to all-plastic interiors.

1971 Morris Marina interior. Spacious and simple.

1971 Morris Marina interior. Spacious and simple.

This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen´s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981. Continue reading

Death Has a Revolving Door

1979 Saab 900

Driventowrite has some news for anyone who has been reading the UK motoring press.

Far from being “an undiscovered bourne from whom no traveller returns” (copyright W. Shakespeare 1599-1602), it appears death is a place car brands can pop over to and come back from much like an obscure place with an out-of-the-way airport served by Ryanair. I think Saab is dead but it might not be. Or it might be. It died spiritually under GM, it died again physically, was reborn under Spyker but soon expired. National Electric Vehicles revived the firm in 2012.

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What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?

This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it. And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably. 


Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical.  Continue reading

Theme : Badging – Emblem of Malaise


0811_05_z+1966_lancia_fulvia_coupe+badge_and_taillightBadges can sometimes tell you a lot more than what exactly it is you’re driving behind…

The badging on the rear of this first series Lancia Fulvia coupé is rather lovely. It resembles a signature and perfectly encapsulates Lancia’s quality ethos at the time. This wasn’t a cheap car and the badge told you this with both elegance and eloquence.

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