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Nothing but pure curiosity drove me to this. What sort of engine range does Porsche have? We had an interesting theme on engines some months back. We covered a lot of ground such as the engines of the mainstream makers and a special focus on quints, small V6s, rough American fours and French ones generally. What we didn´t do was look at sports cars like Porsche for whom the engine is essential to their credibility. Sorting this out sorts out their baffling range of cars too.
Porsche have seven models now, goodness me. If you ´d have asked I´d have said five and been hard pressed to name all of them. In the showroom you will find the Boxster, Cayman, 911, 918, Panamera , Macan and Cayenne. The 918 won´t be in the showroom unless it´s used but it´s still listed at the UK website for some reason. Four are obvious sports cars with either two seats or a 2+2 layout; one is a four door saloon and there are two SUVs.
What I found out is that for Porsche every engine variant is deemed worthy of a model designation. This is not quite like, say, Renault where you have a Megane in several engine and trim variants: 1.8 dCi in Expression Plus trim**. It´s not like BMW where the Continue reading
We look at an invisible landmark.
Looking at the period between 1955 and 1975, there are various cars that we might identify as landmarks. For example the Citroen DS, BMC Mini, Ford Mustang, Lamborghini Miura, Renault 16, Jaguar XJ, NSU Ro80, Fiat 128, Range Rover, Renault 5 and VW Golf are all cars that really stood out at the time, even if some of them, fine cars that they remain, might now be seen as landmarks to nowhere, having no true descendants among today’s products. One car, however, certainly has undoubted conceptual descendants today, but would usually be overlooked when compiling such lists, and quite unjustifiably. The Autobianchi Primula.
Further to two earlier pieces, one on Etceterini, one on the Autobianchi A111, it’s interesting to look at Autobianchi in a bit more detail. The Bianchi company was started in 1885 as a bicycle manufacturer and exists to this day as such – indeed, I believe our own Eóin Vincent used a Bianchi in his ascent of Mont Ventoux. Before World War 2, they also dabbled in cars, but when Bianchi wanted to make new inroads as a car manufacturer in the 1950s, it formed a separate joint three-way company with Fiat and Pirelli. The original attraction for Fiat was to produce less mainstream vehicles and tap a market that, until then, belonged to a sizeable number of small manufacturers, such as the well-respected Moretti. Continue reading
Our visiting Saab experts can probably identify this car more precisely. It lives near my home and comes out at the start of summer and disappears in the autumn. It never seems to move in the meantime. I think it may be a piece of conceptual art.
For those of us who grew up in the 1970’s, it doesn’t necessarily feel that long ago. Revisiting this print ad, I realise just how long it actually was. Advertisements like this were not all that unusual then, especially when it came to advertising more masculine cars. Like so many things we now look back in mortified astonishment over, this form of casual and gleeful sexism not only portrays women as emasculating killjoys, but also as quite incapable of appreciating a nice car – let alone being capable of driving one. Continue reading
Rhodes is pretty much as far east as you can get before you leave Europe. Most people fly there.
Rhodes is not that big a place, almost 80 km from north to south and almost 40 km from east to west. 115,000 people live there full time and must cope with a huge, fluctuating tourist population.
Most of Rhodes´ roads are paved and once you get out of the main towns there are many sinous and varied local roads winding through the islands´mountainous landscape. Like most Greek roads the surfaces are irregular and poorly maintained. Road signs are only sporadic and you must cope with trying to read Greek script.
There are four main highways in Rhodes. The Greek Continue reading
Racetracks are a type of road. A decade ago I had my one and probably only racetrack experience, a drive on the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
What do I remember? What really stands out are that if I had been driving the car myself I would not have survived the first corner. The facilities suffer a want of quality and style. And, finally the other people there are not really people I have much in common with.
I´ll start with the last one. A friend at work wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday. At the time he had a Ford Fiesta ST180, a car of which I approve even if it´s not my kind of car. He wished to mark the day by having a few laps of the ´Ring followed up by Continue reading
The 2014 Audi Prologue points the way to Audi losing its way.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Mercedes’ design for many decades was that styling served to make engineering and production needs aesthetically acceptable. This meant the vehicles had an inherent correctness that makes their 60s to 80s cars look good today. Audi also cleaved to this formula though you´d have to look at a photo since
Automotive News, Autoblog, Inautonews, Archy-news.com all report that the upcoming Cadillac CT6 could provide the underpinnings for a future large Buick. This is excellent news for Buick who sell very well in China (outselling Cadillac thirteen to one) and also gives Buick USA a more appropriate flagship than the Enclave (an SUV) or Lacrosse (a saloon).
What is more interesting for Europeans is that this news also makes it seem likely that something similar or nearly identical could appear as a new Senator (though it may not bear that storied nameplate).
If Buick is to get a new range-topper it will probably look something like the very attractive Avenir concept car shown recently. Since there is already a strong overlap between Buick and Opel, it would not take very much to add an Opel touch here and there to help it slot into Opel´s existing range. Autoblog wrote about the conversion from Cadillac to Buick: “If a large Buick based on the CT6 were to head to China, though, it likely wouldn’t be a Continue reading
European car sales rise 11% on strong demand for VW, Renault and FCA.
After what has seemed like most of a decade in the doldrums, European sales are growing again. It doesn´t feel like it but the increase in car sales is a trend almost two years old. 11% is quite a remarkable increase and reflects a number of factors, among which are a weak Euro and consumers eventually deciding to replace worn vehicles. The statistics were published by ACEA today.
The chief designer of Qoros, Martin Hildebrand, has revealed a drawing showing the style of the brand´s projected next car, the 2. Shades here of Hillman´s Benny Dohar, I feel.
The 2 will Qoros´ fourth model. The other three are the Qoros 3 hatchback, saloon and City (all essentially the same car tweaked).
At present the firm is focusing on sales in China but has a small, experimental dealer network in Slovakia where 40 customers have been Continue reading
“Physically, the Ventoux is dreadful. Bald, it’s the spirit of Dry: Its climate (it is much more an essence of climate than a geographic place) makes it a damned terrain, a testing place for heroes, something like a higher hell.” (Roland Barthes)
The urge to ascend mountains is ancient and mysterious. It has been suggested it’s rooted in the notion of a spiritual journey toward the divine. Certainly there’s an altered state one feels at high altitude, but this probably has as much to do with oxygen deprivation than anything of a more lofty nature. Continue reading
A recent trip to La Belle France served only to remind me of just how dire are our UK roads, and to wonder at how the French can afford to keep theirs in such good condition.
During the Easter period, my family spent 10 days tooling around roads in the very centre of France. There was a real mix of roads: Autoroutes, dual-track roads, main roads (we’d call them A roads), as well as single track stuff and streets around towns and villages. All this was in a new-ish, but humble Megane 1.5dCi hire car. Our base was a pretty (but not fancy) little town called Argenton-sur-Creuse, but we ventured as far as La Rochelle, and in and around La Brenne. It’s fabulously rural (La Rochelle excepted), but the state of the roads is anything but that.
DTW presents another look back at the archives of motoring writer Archie Vicar. This item appears to be a transcript from “Motorists and Motorism”, August 1975.
What a week and indeed what a summer it has been so far. In May I had a chance to sample Michelin´s tyres at a special “closed track” day at Silverstone. A Mercedes 240D and a Peugeot 504 LD served as test-beds for Michelin´s new all-weather radial tyres. Peugeot have thought to bring these diesel cars over as they have had enough experience selling them on the continent. Also, seems as if they don´t want to lose ground to Mercedes. Both cars are on an equal footing – astonishingly quiet for derv burners. Of course, the Peugeot is Continue reading
This bit of research aimed to determine what, if any, variation existed in four major markets in the choice of colours available for the VW Golf.
I looked at the configurators at VW´s websites in Brazil, Australia, the US and Germany. The expectation was that there would be some variation in the number and type of colours. The first part (number) was confirmed by this empirical study but the second expectation (type) was Continue reading
Yesterday I took Lincoln to task for their model name system. I argued that since all their models bar one had an MK prefix, that part served no purpose. Lincoln are not alone though.
Automotive News report that Citroen is thinking of revising their own model nomenclature. Currently Citroen use a C prefix and this too is redundant. Unlike Lincoln´s fairly lame scheme, at least the MK might remind one of the glory days of Lincoln´s Mark-series, the Continentals. The C-system doesn´t even do that as it simply Continue reading
Drivers In the 80s is a book of photos taken by Chris Dorley-Brown coming out on May 4th, published by Hoxton Mini Press. The photos date from 1987.
You can view some more samples of the photos here . The Guardian has a review here by their arts correspondent, Sam Wollaston. This part here is worth quoting: “Twenty-eight years on, the pictures make a curious collection. I’m no photography expert but I would say that individually, none of them is winning any awards. Composition-wise, there are all those pillars and mirrors in the way. And on a bright day, with stark contrast between light and shade, all their faces are in the dark; it’s their right elbows that are catching the light.” That´s correct, most of the photos are very banal. The one I selected has a little something Continue reading
Here Be Monsters : Nostalgia For The A1
The 1952 British film ‘Mr Denning Drives North’ is supposed to be a mystery thriller, so you’d think it would have been given a suitably mysterious title. And it was. Though its star, the excellent John Mills, was born in Norfolk and was never entirely typecast, his speciality was playing the essentially decent, resilient, middle class Englishman with an accent that is usually associated with what are known as The Home Counties – the Southern counties surrounding London. As such, the idea that he needed to ‘Drive North’ might have suggested mystery enough. Why would he ever want to do that, unless he had to for some, dark, dark reason?
The North/South divide is not confined to England. It exists in many countries and, I’d judge, is far more common than an East/West divide. There are many possible suggestions for why this is, but in part one might be climate. Climate affects character and, in more extreme cases such as Italy, the climate in Naples is very different from that in Milan. Even in the UK, Southerners generally get a softer time than those further North and this, combined with the fact that the Capital city is only about 60 miles from the South Coast, has increased the divide still further. Continue reading
Today I will turn my attention to Lincoln. How good does it look for Ford´s premium brand? What are they selling? Read on to find out what the main UK-based websites** aren´t telling you.
Lincoln´s range of vehicles has changed dramatically in the last decade. For nearly the entirety of its history the brand sold luxury cars in varying flavours of large. Not all of these have been particularly well-regarded but Lincoln has also managed to avoid overt product disasters. It has no equivalent to the Cadillac Cimarron, for example. Lincoln´s high points involve the Continental limousine of 1961 and 2002 but thereafter it stagnated gently as a provider of non-Cadillac, non-Mercedes luxury cars to an older clientele. Unlike Cadillac, Lincoln has made no notable efforts to sell their cars in Europe. As such, while many who are somewhat interested in cars have seen the occasional Cadillac in Europe, the Lincoln nameplate is unknown outside the livery trade where a white stretched Lincoln Town Car vies with Cadillac, Hummer and Rolls for business. If your impressions of Lincoln are lodged circa 1963 in Dallas it might be time to Continue reading
There is nothing remarkable about this car apart from its unusual state of preservation. It´s a CLX, which is quite luxurious in Escort terms: swirly velour upholstery, rear armrest, rear head restraints, alloy wheels, colour coded this and also that. But it does remind me of the 1988 Chevrolet Corsica. Critics damned the Escort for its mediocrity and conservatism. Ford marketed the car as having “classical” style. Yes, classical Chevrolet style from 1988.
Not only did the Escort somehow ape the incredibly bland Corsica but it also affected to use the ingenious body-side/wheel arch solution of the 1989 Peugeot 605. I am on trickier ground with this criticism. Peugeot launched the 605 in 1989 and Ford launched the Escort in 1990. I don´t know for certain when the first 605s were shown in the press and I don´t know how late in 1990 the Escort was released – I seem to recall it was in the autumn but Continue reading
Today we look at a shortlived and virtually unknown automotive artefact.
The Autobianchi A111 was produced for only three years and is notable for being the largest model they produced – in fact, the A111 was never replaced. From 1972, Fiat-owned Autobianchi’s sole offering would be the supermini-sized A112. The genesis of the A111 appears to have been the 1964 Autobianchi Primula, forerunner to Dante Giacosa’s 1969 masterpiece – the Fiat 128. Continue reading
Wait. Didn´t we do motorways a few days ago? Why are we doing the same thing again, only in German?
The Autobahn in question is Kraftwerk´s landmark album from 1974. I have a copy of this record but I don´t listen to it very much, in part because it rather too successfully captures the tedium of driving on an Autobahn and not Continue reading
Quite by chance I tapped in “Skoda” into my search engine. At Skoda´s German site the configurator allowed me to rustle up this image of a very green Fabia in short order.
While Skoda are offering this nice green they are not permitting an orange or a yellow. What appears to be brown on the selector (left) is in fact red. Astoundingly, Skoda UK also permit customers this same green, called Rallye Green.
DTW has prepared this side-by-side comparison of the 2007 Ford Galaxy and the “all-new” Ford Galaxy with its “latest global design language”.
You can read Ford´s lengthy description of the revised Galaxy here. Among the extensive field of words Ford composed is nothing about major dimensional changes or structural changes. Even the improvement in rear head-room was probably achievable by revising the seats.
The current Galaxy is a very fine vehicle. What is not very fine is Ford´s compulsion to pass off what seems to be a nearly comprehensive re-styling as “all new”. Here is their summary: “…with a sophisticated grille and slim-line headlamps, the all-new Galaxy offers seven full-size seats, enabling families to easily switch between seating or load space with a segment-first feature that raises third-row seats at the push of a button.” And furthermore: Continue reading
On two occasions I drove diagonally across Ireland using local roads. It was rewarding though tiring.
The first trip went from the south east, Wexford, to the north-west, Sligo. We drove in the middle of winter in my much-missed base-model 1990 Peugeot 205. What could have been a four-hour trip via Dublin on the main roads took about eight but we got to see corners of Ireland by-passed by the 20 th century. It was rather a long time ago now (1993) so I can´t provide a great deal of detail. What stands out though was Continue reading
Once, car choice was easy. Saloon, estate or, if your were really naughty, sports car. Even with brand – your dad bought Vauxhalls, and you did too. Now it’s not like that. Brand loyalty has gone out the door and there are so many choices and niches, each trying to appeal to your specific lifestyle needs. Except, speaking for myself at least, they don’t. Now, politics in the UK is catching up. Ever since the days of Tony Blair, the old Left/Right polarity has been a bit ropey, but is the UK Independence Party, to give it its full name, the first of the true Crossover Hybrids?
The UK is in a General Election year and, at present, no-one has a clue where it could end up. The fly-in-the-ointment (or the light at the end of the tunnel, if you wish to look at it that way) is UKIP who, just like the Front National in France and the Five Star Movement in Italy, are hoovering up voters of various prior persuasions, based on their perceived alienation from the traditional parties. It’s unlikely to be a gentle election, and expect plenty of low blows so, to start the ball rolling and in the true spirit of modern politics, I’ll play an obvious and cheap card and state that, although I believe Nigel Farage is a Volvo man, to me the British Standard UKIP vehicle is a maroon XJ40 with an aftermarket leaper on the bonnet. But, to delve a bit less superficially than the average politician, what do cars actually say about politicians and what have politicians done for cars?
Recently DTW was on the hunt for a green car. Kia have kindly offered one in a nice grey-green. But that´s not the only good part. The car is the Novo. DTW presents this design analysis so you can sound knowledgeable when the subject comes up.
Kia chose the Seoul Auto show to present this excellent design. Either they want to upgrade the Seoul show by giving it morsels one might expect to see presented elsewhere. Or, they have underestimated the quality of this design.
The only factual element of the design is that it is Continue reading
Today, we examine rumours in the mainstream car industry that if accurate, could precipitate something quite unusual. Genuine surprise.
In a polarised landscape, the worst place to be is in the centre ground. This is as true of the mainstream motor industry as it is within politics, religion or even retail. Anyone not attempting to create upmarket brand extensions hope to convince customers to pay more for their existing products. Others see the creation of new brands as the answer. Continue reading
I am sorry but it´s another Mondeo. That´s not important. Quite coincidentally it was the only car parked under the looming mass of a 1960s multistorey apartment complex in Jutland. This kind of architecture is not good for much but it has horizontal stripes which make great reflections on shiny surfaces like car bodies.
It´s not that I have a Ford fetish. This is just the kind of car that keeps cropping up. We have Myles Gorfe´s ´75, Steen Larsen´s Consul and now this ´76 Granada with its wonderfully clear trim designation: 2300 V6 GXL. You know precisely where you are with this car. Tricky lighting confounded the front three quarter view. The light was behind the car at the time and it was hard to get a better angle due to the surrounding cars on the lot.
The car can be seen at Z.K Biler in Silkeborg. The price is 35,000 kr or €4,684. I could file this under Something Rotten in Denmark as despite the price there is no certification and the import tax is not paid either. Add another €700 for that, I would guess. The reason the Continue reading
James May* wrote that if you find yourself driving on a motorway you are probably in the wrong vehicle. You should be on a train. I tend to agree and having begun a twice weekly commute of 100 km, I have not once considered driving. I have done so in order to avoid the E45 motorway. On the train I can read, sleep, write or even meet people.
A dislike of motorways is something that car enthusiasts and ecologists can agree on. Motorists, on the other hand think motorways are excellent. I will get back to motorists in a moment.
Car enthusiasts enjoy the business of driving which is Continue reading
From a technical point of view the Ferrari California is of interest to Ferrari fans for these reasons: it is the first Ferrari with a direct petrol injection engine. Also the Modena firm had not done a folding metal roof and, as far as I know, the first Ferrari to have multi-link rear suspension. You might have thought they were doing this a long time before 2008. Finally, Ferrari had not attempted a front-engined V8 before this car.
Between 1999 and 2002 GM sold the Oldsmobile Alero as the Chevrolet Alero in Europe. Not many found customers: 18 are advertisted for sale in Europe compared to 119 Aston Martin DB9s and 261 Lamborghini Gallardos. From €450 you can share in the American dream.
The Alero replaced the Oldsmobile Achieva which was a cousin of the last Buick Skylark and the 1990-1998 Cutlass Supreme. We featured the Cutlass a while back. Around this time GM had turned to brandscape to try to distinguish its middle market brands. The Alero and the Intrigue had the job of Continue reading
If you glance through a copy of a classic cars magazine you will not have to look too hard to find pictures of racing scenes: Augustine “Bodger” Gilhooley behind the wheel of a Gilbern Invader, winning the 1972 Norfolk Broads Hill Climb, for example. Is that art? Can cars make for good art?
A book of the art of Steen Larsen prompted me to consider this question again. “Road” is a collection of Larsen´s paintings from the period 2004 to 2011. The front cover is an eye-catching green metallic Ford Consul L (pretty much identical to Myles Gorfe´s troublesome 2.0. Granada L). Up to this point, only two pieces of good automotive art had crossed my path: Julian Opie´s cars and an image of a Porsche 911 parked in a grimy lane by a German artist whose name eludes me.
Apart from these three, I discounted paintings involving cars. The rather literal images satirised in the intro typically are very detailed oil paintings where the important elements Continue reading
The Grossglockner High Alpine Road (Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße) in Austria, referred to hereafter as The Glockner, is known as one of the great Alpine roads of Europe. Only open six months of the year and named after the local mountain, I’ve crossed it several times, in varying weather. I’ve enjoyed the experience, I’ve marvelled at the view and I’ve maybe wished that I was driving something faster and nimbler, without a passenger whose comfort I needed to consider and with less dawdling traffic around. Because it is a fine and challenging road with lots of hairpin bends, long curves and occasional straights and tunnels. Continue reading
My doesn´t time fly. And why are so many of my Sunday photos red?
“Breaking the copycat mould as crazy Lexus takes a swipe at Merc”, wrote Car on the front cover of their September 2000 edition. Lexus presented the SC430 first as a concept called the “Sport Coupe Concept”. The production car got a review in August 2001. So, this was one of those not-a-concept concept cars we could have discussed when ran our concept car theme in October 2105. For the November 2000 article, Mike Duff made the point that Continue reading
It may have been 2001 or 2002 when I said to myself that in the A-class, Mercedes had finally built a car to be driven and thrown away without a care. I can even remember where I was when I had that thought, in a Wimpey housing estate carved from a chalk pit near Greys, Essex. Now, 13 years later, my mental note was verified.
If you want to get access to Mercedes privilige, €580 is what you need for a 1998 A140 Elegance with 186,000 km registered. For an equivalent VW Golf with 185,000 km you will need €450. That´s exactly the same ball park. Continue reading
We’ve identified the problem with the XF’s styling. Yes, all by ourselves.
Jaguar’s Series-2 XF was revealed this week and the dust has settled to some extent over its appearance; the consensus being it’s very cautious. What’s apparent is the bulk of stylistic contention lies aft and in particular, the tail-lamp treatment. While not as grating as those affixed to the junior level XE, they could be so much nicer. In fact, buried within the press pack, Jaguar have provided an image of just how nice they could have been, had they been a little slimmer. The difference is rather striking is it not? Continue reading
As Lincoln’s Simon Woodhouse gets a quilted leather handbag in the chops courtesy of his Bentley opposite number, we ask – are the designer gloves off for good?
This week’s hissy-fit from Bentley’s Luc Donckerwolke is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it breaks a tacit understanding that rival stylists do not publicly criticise one another’s work. Secondly, it prompts the question; is it possible to claim ownership of a style?
For those who missed it, the spat came about following Ford’s announcement of the Lincoln Continental concept at the New York motor show. In the aftermath of the unveiling, Bentley’s Donckerwolke Continue reading
Or Ford´s 2015 Mondeo is not alone. They are both guilty of the same crime. That crime is to offer a new model that differs very little from the predecessor.
Here´s the new 2015 Mondeo (above). Granted, it´s black and the lighting is terrible. It does look incredibly like the last one though. Ford does not usually do this. Usually they make it really clear that a new model has superceded the old one, for better and for worse. This time they Continue reading
What are cars for without roads to run them on?
Quite a lot of ink is used discussing the handling and ride of cars. Is it ride or is it handling that comes first? For some, these parameters are the deciders when it comes to assessing a car´s excellence or otherwise. Very thorough people go so far as to take in interest in tyres since some cars´ behaviour is affected directly by the rubber chosen to deck the wheels. This raises the question of why ride is an issue and why Continue reading
The Outgoing Editor Writes
It is with a mixture of sorrow and goodwill that I announce my departure as Senior Editor of Driven To Write, and my immediate replacement by the well-known motoring personality, Mr Jeremy Clarkson. On discussing this with me, The Founders stressed that this has been a hugely painful decision for them to make. I have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months, building this site to be the informed and thoughtful forum it is today. However, there is competition out there and The Founders felt that their ambitions to reach the widest readership possible were not being totally realised. With Mr Clarkson on board they see the chance to leap, at a stroke, from the current readership, who I believe are mostly aged relatives of the three, to one of several billion.
There will likely be a period of turmoil before things stabilise. At present, Sean is being held at Dover police station following his involvement in the incoming Senior Editor’s inaugural stunt ‘How Many Illegals Can You Fit In The Boot Of A Phantom?’. Eoin is undergoing hospital treatment after an inappropriate, though innocently informal, rejoinder to that prank when he was heard to say ‘Call the Rolls Jeremy and a million people will crawl up its backside’. Richard is currently suspended following allegations about his political allegiances – I warned you that the world of motoring was not the place to express socialist sentiments, Richard, though I am surprised quite how literally Mr Clarkson uses the concept of suspension. Continue reading
Run by: Myles Gorfe. Total Mileage: 299,911. Miles since February 2015: 4. Latest costs: £169 for refitting boot hinges, £7401 for harness work (under review) – see last month´s news. £23 for replacing the CV boots again, £12 for tightening the driver´s seat runners, £19 for re-fitting the right mirror, £100 for repairing a transaxle leak, £50 for the flat bed truck, £30 for fixing a leak in the washer fluid tubes.
It´s been a busy month for the Grannie. Len Gudgeon at the Granada Garage replaced the boot hinges again. Over-lubrication with the wrong grade of oil meant the old ones failed to align and they became distorted during a closure test. A distributor cap and new carb showed up from a dealer in Antwerp Continue reading
What is the quintessential modern Jaguar? Hint: It’s not the F-Type.
Upon release, Jaguar made lavish claims about the significance of the F-Type. How it would become the fulcrum of the entire Jaguar range. How successive models would reference its styling. This has proved wildly inaccurate because on the basis of the two most recent model launches, Jaguar’s pivot point is not in fact the F-Type. It’s the XF. Continue reading
Look at all my lovely buttons – so much choice, so little time!
From The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut : “The only controls available to those on board were two push-buttons on the centre post of the cabin – one labelled ‘ON’ and one labelled ‘OFF’. The ON button simply started a flight from Mars. The OFF button connected to nothing. It was installed at the insistence of the Martian mental health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery they thought they could turn off.”
In a companion piece, I’ll shortly sing the delights of a car that entertains, but there’s another side to this. Cars have become complex, with lots of switches and touch-screen options. If you drive a modern car, do you use every option that is available to you? Do you even know every option?
This car falls into the same category as the Mercury Monarch I wrote about a few weeks ago. It´s a dented working car. It´s a pretty ordinary car too, possibly even more ordinary than the Monarch. It´s a small, front wheel-drive monococque vehicle from the lower end of the price range. The engine is mounted transversely and the front suspension uses McPherson struts. In concept terms, it´s the same a VW Golf. Or, in image terms, think of it as a Rover 45 saloon with sporting accents.
During the last decade of the 20th century a wave of retro cars were shown as concept cars or sold as production cars. These vehicles re-used details and characteristics of designs from the 1950s and 1960s or perhaps idea of these times. I will not discuss the reasons for this trend but rather retro design itself, and the two alternatives, modernism and classicism.
I take the view that the best industrial design is impersonal. That is to say, the designer acts as a channel that collects observations about what the user wants and syntheses them with the other demands such as production and marketing. A car is a product which must satisfy the needs of the producer to make a return on investment within the limits of social responsibility (quite broadly defined) and meet the needs of the user. The car is
Or Calibre, if you are writing using British English. I only remembered this one because I saw an example other day. I didn´t know what it was so I thought it must be one of those Chrysler things. Or Dodge things. Or maybe a Plymouth. Whatever.
There was a time when American car interiors were cherishably bad. They might have been a bit careless but they had a humour and brio to them. The Calibre´s is simply bad and dispiriting but is a great example of when simple (good) becomes banal (not good). All the great simple designs have a twist or an inflection or a grace note. This set of straight lines (above) is Continue reading
Obviously I haven´t forgotten it. But nearly every one else has.
Around the late 90s the Japanese car industry had a thing about technology. An arms race between Honda, Toyota and Nissan had the firms vying to outdo one another in the levels of fiendish ingenuity they could tempt customers with. An economic boom drove this boom in engineering silliness. Whereas in Europe and the US the late 80s economic expansion meant more cubic capacity, the Japanese tended to focus on all the other areas of the car. It led to some wonderful creations, hopeful monsters like this all-wheel drive Mitsubishi saloon. Continue reading