Archive Red 2Welcome to DTW, the dogma-free zone for automotive writing.

We welcome comments. We also invite contributors of long-form articles on any automotive topic.

That was June: a short round-up of some of the main items of interest that were brought to your attention in the four weeks just past with reference to news, comments and opinions

We adopted Evolution as theme of the month and some interesting things emerged such as a thoughtful contemplation of evolution versus revolution. We also explored Murat Gunak´s interest in certain shapes.

1984 Alfa Romeo 90: carbaze.com

1984 Alfa Romeo 90: carbaze.com

On the news front Alfa Romeo showed us a few pictures of a red sport saloon they may one day make. Luc Donckerwolke has left Bentley and there were discussions of Citroen design and marketing too. DTW has been driving real cars. A Nissan Cube joined the fleet along with a Mazda 3 and we had some mass-market rental fodder  out on the road too. Continue reading

1976 Triumph Toledo

This is what I have in mind when I think of a Toledo/Dolomite: one in flat burgundy paint parked outside a damp Victorian house. It´s 1983 in the inner suburbs of Dublin and these are parked on every other street. You know the owner hates it and the next car will be a Corolla. The image is from aronline, of course. 

There are lots of houses like this in Dublin.

There are lots of houses like this in Dublin.

The Alvis Continuation Series

My intention was to ask readers which extinct car brand they would like to see back in production My one caveat was that it ought to be a brand dead for more than 20 years so we can avoid regretting Rover, Pontiac, Austin, Morris and  Oldsmobile, Citroen**, Lincoln**, Saab and Saturn. For example. My preference is for Alvis. Interestingly, Alvis is not as dead as I thought. 

2015 Alvis 4.3 litre Continuation series.

2015 Alvis 4.3 litre Continuation series.

Alvis are back in the business of car production. They have hit upon the wheeze of completing an unfinished run of cars from 1940. “There is evidence from the 1938 Alvis Board Minutes that 77 of the 4.3 Litre chassis that were officially sanctioned for production were never completed because car manufacturing had to be suspended in 1940. As a result the new 4.3 Litre “Continuation Series” will be limited to the production of these remaining 77 chassis, thereby fulfilling the original intention of the Alvis Board,” write Alvis at their nice websiteContinue reading

Our cars: 1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L

Run by: Myles Gorfe. Total Mileage: 299,918. Miles since May 30 2015: 3. Latest costs: £169 for removing carburetor again, £89.01 for installing the carburetor. £23 for repairing the insulation under the bonnet, £12 for loosening the rear parcel shelf to find a rattle, £19 for new oil and adjusting the second air filter, £40 for two punctures and £310 for a new heater matrix, £50 for the flat-bed truck, £490 for cutting, welding, filling and painting of b-pillar rust problem.

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 has got the carburetor sorted out finally and revealed a fuel tank problem.

Gavin Chide has been paid and that matter is closed.

The rust spot on the outside of the B-pilllar turned out to conceal an extensive area of rot underneath which Len Gudgeon dealt with, taking about three and a half weeks to prepare the area and source the right paint for the re-spray. Continue reading

Theme: Evolution – Lancia and others

For a decade and a bit, Lancia´s principle cars evolved, if you want to be generous about it. The Flavia saloon debuted in 1961 and soldiered on until 1975 (though renamed 2000 in 1971). The Fulvia saloon appeared 1963 and hung about until 1972. Fiat took over Lancia in 1969 and by 1972 the Beta had appeared. There was a quiet interregnum after which the old guard were put out to pasture and shot with silencers.

1963 Lancia Fulvia GT: autoviva.com

1963 Lancia Fulvia GT: autoviva.com

The Flavia had to evolve to stay competitive over its 14 year run and I expect consumers in the early 70s noticed the elderly underlying style of the car in comparison with the newer models from Lancia´s competitors in Germany and Great Britain. The Flavia´s design began in the late 1950s and featured a 1.5 litre aluminium boxer engine, disc brakes and front-wheel drive. Unequal length wishbones were at the front.   Continue reading

A photo for Sunday: 1971-1979 Morris Marina 1.3 Super coupe

Most of these photos for Sunday are taken outside my front door, somewhere along my street. It´s not that I don´t go anywhere else. I do but I seldom, if ever, see an unusual or interesting car to photograph. I even stop into look at old garages to see if there are rusting treasures hidden from plain view. There aren´t. All the interesting cars in Denmark are either on my street or in a suburb of Copenhagen.

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Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 7

The Useless Estate Car

Today there are quite a few contenders for that dubious accolade, possible exemplified best by the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake. The idea of tacking a glassy, generous box onto the boot of a saloon, maybe even lengthening it a bit, in order to make something supremely useful just isn’t sexy in the 21st Century. People don’t want to be thought of as saddoes, who are only at their happiest bustling around B&Q with a groaning trolley of timber flooring. No, their lifestyle choices are better and, whilst they might need a bit of added loadspace for windsurfer accoutrements, old school golf clubs or just to fit in an extra Louis Vuitton hatbox, it’s important that the car doesn’t look in the least bit practical. Continue reading

Something Rotten in Denmark: 1990 Renault 25 2.9 V6 TX auto

For a change, the only rotten thing about this car is the photography. This is a rare chance to get a genuinely appealing and comfortable French luxury car, a Renault 25 V6 auto. 

1990 Renault 25 2.9 V6 TX auto: bilbasen.dk

1990 Renault 25 2.9 V6 TX auto: bilbasen.dk

Admittedly, the 1990 version of the R25 is not so visually pure as the pre-facelift version. Renault lost the industrial design aesthetic in their attempt to make their flagship look like their mid-field contender, the Renault 21. Or else both cars were facelifted in an attempt to Continue reading

History Repeating – XJ40: 1972-1994 – Postscript

XJ40 (1)

XJ40 perfected? The 1994 Jaguar’s – last of the line. Image via thecaptainschair

Tragedy, Loss, Redemption. DTW brings its XJ40 epic to a close.

In a recent interview, Sir John Egan expressed regret at not having cancelled XJ40 in 1982/3 and starting afresh, stating he was talked out of it by Sir William Lyons. In retrospect, given the inconsistencies in the car’s specification and design, perhaps he should. Because had Jim Randle been given a realistic timescale and the freedom to develop the car without political interference, the story may well have turned out differently.

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Alfa Romeo Erases History

Its own to be exact. This week Alfa Romeo announced a new visual identity. The signs are not good.


Alfa Romeo’s new more ‘now’ emblem

It’s invariably worrying when auto manufacturers fiddle with their marque emblem. Even if you’re VW, the fact that you see fit to mess about with your trademark suggests the wrong business decisions are being prioritised and at the very least, the marketing people have run amok.

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Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 6

The Surprisingly Fast Family Car

Jeff Uren’s Personal Savage Estate : www.sussexsportscars.co.uk

Jeff Uren’s Personal Savage Estate : http://www.sussexsportscars.co.uk

Once, saloon and estate cars behaved soberly. Some of them got a bit spritely with the addition of a second carburetor and 1/2 inch wider tyres, and indeed I offered the 1962 Alfa Giulia as the partial template for the modern hot hatch/saloon a while back. Then, of course, there was the Lotus Cortina. The Mk2 Jaguar doesn’t count because it was always supposed to be fast anyway, so only surprised people who bought it in 2.4 litre form and found it slow. Rover put its new V8 into the P6, but only in auto form until near the end of its long life and they mistakenly pitched it towards their clumsy preconception of the US market. Unlike today, the German industry generally showed remarkable restraint back then. The Neue Klasse BMW took a while to become surprisingly fast, the 2002 being the first that caught people’s attention. Pushing the idea of a family car, there is of course the glorious 300 SEL 6.3 V8 Mercedes. But there is a people’s alternative for the accolade of a missing link that led to RS Audis, M Series BMWs and AMG Mercedes, the Cortina Savage. Continue reading

Not on sale around here: 2015 Honda Mobilio

Honda´s styling has gone off the rails in a big way, to judge by the interior and exterior appearance of this MPV which is on sale in India. The rear view is especially confused, with a modish and rather useless faux semi-glazed D-pillar. What more is there to the car?

2015 Honda Mobilio: Honda India

2015 Honda Mobilio: Honda India

The Mobilio is short, just 4.3 metres and is judged to be well packaged. Two engines, a 1.5 litre petrol unit (119 PS) and a 1.5 litre diesel (100 PS) are the only power plant available. It is based on the Brio platform from 2010 and competes with a swarm of small MPVs in the Asian and sub-Continental market. Continue reading

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia design review

Here it is, the long-awaited 2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia, nice and official. It has the overall proportions of a BMW 3 from back in the day when these were proper compact sport saloons. The bonnet bulges for pedestrian-safety reasons. This is the Quadrifoglio version; it could look more appealing if there are versions with some more brightwork. What do you think?

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia design review: original image from The Truth About Cars.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia design review: original image from The Truth About Cars.

More about driverless cars

Volvo will be getting together with Chalmers University to research driverless cars and sustainable mobility. “The Drive Me project – a unique public pilot with ordinary drivers behind the steering wheels of 100 self-driving Volvos – has been joined by a new prominent Swedish partner: Chalmers University of Technology,” writes Volvo at their PR portal.



I happen to have a bit of an interest in this topic as I have recenly been involved in a sustainable transport-related project. The interesting possibility with a driverless car is that you can ask it to pootle around while you go off to a meeting. This saves looking for car parking. Driverless cars offer the possibility that you can have more cars driving than there are drivers driving. That means you can have one owner and as many driverless cars as he or she can maintain driving about. Car rental firms might be in this category. Imagine if Sixt or Europcar have their forty cars at a given office on the move or re-parking themselves instead of taking up valuable space in parking lots.

Alfa Romeo´s news

According to ANE, the Giulia’s launch date is next year at the earliest. Some allege the car is derived from the Fiat Viaggio and not the Maserati Ghibli. The anticipated annnual sales are under 50,000 units say some analysts.  Over 6 years that´s 300,000 which is not enough for a car in this sector. It seems to me that projections seem to be based on the idea that sales will be gained left right and centre from other brands in the market. Has this ever happened?

Almost forty years ago, the 1977 Alfa Giulietta was already showing AR´s key traits of frailty and lack of overall competence. Still a lovely car, if you like rust and iffy plastics.

Almost forty years ago, the 1977 Alfa Giulietta was already showing AR´s key traits of frailty and lack of overall competence. Still a lovely car, if you like rust and iffy plastics.

This really hasn´t happened in years. What usually happens is that a market sector fades away with sales going in various directions. Has anyone in recent times launched a category killier that wasn´t a new niche? I mean, a new vehicle of an existing type that ruined the previous champ in that class? A hypothetical example would be if somoene was to launch a new 5-door family hatchback that reduced the sales of the Golf by 50% and took a quarter or Astra, Megane and Focus sales each. Whoever “owns” a category now seems to stay the boss of that category until the category declines due to outside factors. By this analysis, the Giulia has no chance of being a top dog and Alfa Romeo ought to have found another category in which to compete.

Theme: Evolution – Cant Rails and Window Gutters

Today we take a look at a small but important area of car body design, the window frames and cant rails. 

2015 Land Rover Defender. Possibly the last passenger car with guttered side-glass: Topgear.com

2015 Land Rover Defender. Possibly the last passenger car with guttered side-glass: Topgear.com

Up until 1982, the standard solution for mating the roof to the sides of the glass house was a rolled flange.  In simple terms, the edge of the roof panel was mated to the edge of the bodyside and welded after being rolled by two folds along its length. The resultant u-shaped structure was rigid and provided a useful gutter to stop water flowing down the sides of the car. In some cases, a chrome sheath was slid over the outer edge of the gutter to Continue reading

Don’t Look Down Sergio!

FCA didn’t launch the 2016 Giulia today.

The wait is over. Well, maybe not over exactly... Image via carscoops

Anybody seen my unicorn? Image via carscoops

This afternoon’s reveal of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia will undoubtedly be the day’s big automotive story with the car’s styling and likely chance of success being foremost in commentator’s minds. But it’s worth pointing out this is not an announcement of a production-ready car; more a piece of theatre, aimed at a far more rarefied audience. But don’t take my word for it.

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Well what do I know?

The French like Citroen above all other French brands, reports the Posternak-Ifop brand image survey. Appropriately, only Michelin scored equally well. How Citroen style this result so as to mean they are first among equals was not made clear in their report.

2000 Citroen XsaraAdd to this the fact that the Citroen Cactus is so popular that production is being increased then to some extent I have to eat a small amount of humble pie. “Citroen initially aimed for annual sales of 70,000 but has sold 74,000 since the car’s staggered launch in Europe starting in France last June,” says Automotive News. I still think their cars are not what they should be and I wish they were more interesting and advanced. Citroen is in a position to build on this popularity by using some of this to lead their customers rather than merely giving them what they want. All that said, the result is that French consumers like the brand and consumers generally are taking to one of the most Citroen-y of Citroen´s current cars. It´s not the C5, alas, which is the most Citroen-y of their cars though some of that must be down to the fact it´s in a declining sector and has been on sale for quite a long time. Imagine if they didn´t scrap the HP suspension and instead made the next C5 with bolder engineering, just a shade bolder, as an antidote the rather homogenous competence on offer elsewhere in the C-D class.

Nissan Cube : Hip or Square?

Why I Bought A Cube.

Under N for Nissan

Under N for Nissan

Many petrolheads would condemn the Nissan Cube as being a superficial thing, the sort of car bought by metropolitan types with no interest in or knowledge of cars. Having lived in London for all my adult life, I can’t really avoid the Metropolitan tag but, without bragging, I know a lot about cars (too much probably) and I like driving fast (too fast probably) and I like a car with an interesting engine.

So why don’t I dislike the Cube with its mundane Nissan/Renault B Platform underpinnings? Because I find it a very honest vehicle in many ways. What I like about it is that it is unashamedly designed as an appliance. Most cars are really no more than that, but they flatter themselves otherwise and forgo certain essential attributes such as comfort and convenience. The fiddling around on the new Astra, for example, the sloping roofline, etc, all aim to make the driver think that they could be a ‘Ring hero, if they wanted. The Cube has no such illusions. It seems to know exactly what it is.

Also, it challenges my obsessive inclination towards symmetry, and that is good. Citroen, in their heyday, liked a bit of asymmetry – the offset bonnet vents on CX and SM, the offset chevrons, they even let Berliet do a light truck with an offset radiator grille. All these things irritated me slightly once, but I prefer to embrace my irritants. Continue reading

Spyshots 1978: how the new Mini emerged into daylight

“New Leyland small car spied”, writes Archie Vicar, in the 1978 edition of Contemporary Driving News Magazine. This transcript of what appears to be a commentary on the much-discussed new “Mini” shows Archie Vicar´s analytical journalism at its best. Photography by Jack Donning.

1978 LC8 spyshot

1978 LC8 spyshot

Spy photographers have caught the replacement for the much-loved but geriatric, cramped and unreliable Mini on test. The planned car is an advance on the very modern ADO88 design which the engineers at Leyland have been working on since the early 70s. The wheelbase is now longer than ADO88 in response to developments in the market since the project´s inception just after the second World War.

The promised car will be bigger than similar “superminis” such as the Volkswagen Polo and Renault 5 but will also be large inside to compensate. Sources are divided on the strategy taken with the car. Some say that much of the Mini´s renowned engineering will be carried over but improved. This means the same Hydragas suspension and pronounced gear-box whine.

Others say the new car features McPherson struts up front with torsion bars at the rear. There is a possibility of a return to Continue reading

Rooting in the Parts Bins – Again…

Those SM tail lights again. Frua's Phantom Drophead. Image via onlycarsandcars

Those SM tail lights again. Frua’s Phantom Drophead. Image via onlycarsandcars

It’s always the same. You wait for ages, then two incidences of Citroën SM’s tail lamp units crop up on the same week – on two vastly different cars. Firstly (as we saw earlier) on Maserati’s 1976 Kyalami, and now here on Frua’s 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom VI Drophead. Of course the common strand here is the carrozzeria who plainly had a job lot of SM lens units knocking about. Continue reading

Theme: Evolution – the Rolls-Royce/Bentley L410 V8

The L410 V8 engine was born in the early 50s with the role of powering Bentleys and Rolls-Royce cars. From the 50s to 1998 the engine found homes in cars of both brands. After BMW acquired Rolls-Royce (the name and nothing else), the engine then became the sole preserve of Bentley where it is still in use, very highly modified, in the Mulsanne.

1998 Bentley Turbo RT: www.rrsilverspirit.com

1998 Bentley Turbo RT: http://www.rrsilverspirit.com

This engine has a rough parallel with the Buick V8 talked about recently, in that it is simply a very long lived V8. The differences are that the L410 is still in production and that nobody seems to have tried to use the engine in other commercial applications.

The main steps of the history of the L410 are well-documented so I won´t try to recapitulate them in their entirety. What any informed person might remember is that the engine has had one increase in capacity, from 6.25 litres to 6.75 litres in 1968. In 1982 a turbo-charger was added to give the Bentley Mulsanne a more sporting character. That particular step is of significance because it was the germ of Bentley´s eventual independence. The more aggressive engine made people wake up to Bentley´s sporting heritage and gradually at first more and more customers were opting for a winged “B” on their bonnet instead of the Spirit of Babycham. Continue reading

Theme: Evolution – Proliferation

Ode to Joy…

Untitled-1Four decades ago, BMW’s range looked like this.

The body copy here attempts to challenge the contemporary perception that BMW was essentially a niche manufacturer with a tiny range of specialist cars by highlighting the broad scope of BMW’s 1975 UK range: 14 cars. Today there are as many variations of the current 3-door 1-Series available upon these shores. So while the 40-year old range could fit on an single A4 sheet, BMW’s entire 2015 range would now require a good 38 pages – and most likely a glossary of terms. Continue reading

2015 Opel Corsa 1.0 Ecoflex review

By coincidence, on the heels of the Opel Adam Rocks, DTW has a chance to test its stablemate, the Corsa. Here are the main points of the news.

2015 Opel Corsa

2015 Opel Corsa

Having an opportunity to drive the “new” Corsa meant I could assess the car in isolation but also compare it to its zanier sister, the Adam. Mechanically the two cars are not far apart and the same goes for price. An Adam Rocks costs £14659 and an Opel like the one tested here costs £13,330 and more, depending on spec. The latter is a bit larger than the former and the Corsa comes in three and five door options (why no estate or convertible I wonder?). Continue reading

Theme : Evolution – When Genes Mutate

We go back to a time before fun was a 24/7 obligation

Image : citroenet.org

Image : citroenet.org

It’s near midnight early in 1955 in a nondescript French suburb. The scene is an office, deserted except for one man at a drawing board. There is a sudden flash of green light.

André Lefèbvre (for it is he) : What was that?

Linda Jackson (for it is she) : Hello André. I’m Linda. Don’t stand there looking gobsmacked. You’re French aren’t you? Don’t we shake hands?

Of course, my apologies Madame … ouch!

Oops! Sorry André, couldn’t resist. Electric handshake! You’ve got to have a bit of fun now and then. So, this is the famous Bureau d’Études? I must say, it’s a bit disappointing. Bit scuzzy really.

It is where we work. We just need the basics. The richness is in our minds.

Oh dear, it’s true what I’ve read about you. Sounds like you’ve spent a bit too much time with your Existentialist pals on the Left Bank. Anyway, I wasn’t knocking your workplace. It just looks a bit on the cheap side – Carlos would love it.

Who are you?

I’m your boss. Or rather I would be if you’d lived long enough.

But you are a woman. And you’re wearing trousers. Continue reading

Theme: Evolution – Survival, Adaptation, Diversification

For a Hybrid, it's a fine piece of work. The 1976 Maserati Kylami

What expediency looked like in 1976. For a Hybrid, it’s a rather fine piece of work. Frua’s Tipo 129 Maserati Kyalami. Image via maserati-alfieri

Maserati’s natural history came to an abrupt halt in 1975. Survival meant change – not just a new model, but a fresh approach.

It’s tempting to view evolution as a continuous series of gradual mutations, but events throughout history have demonstrated it only takes a single catastrophic event to send it in an entirely different direction – or stop it entirely. The 1973 oil embargo for instance was the motor industry’s very own fiery catastrophe and 1975 the year when the conflagration really took hold, consuming a swathe of specialist marques including Jensen and Iso.  Continue reading

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 5

The Classy Looking 4×4

The 1946 Version

The 1946 Version

Of course, this is no obscurity to most of our American Readers (both North and South) but we in the UK do tend to imagine that we elevated the 4WD from the farm to the polo fields with the first Range Rover.  Actually, the first Rangie was admirably austere and, if its social climbing you’re looking for, designer/showman Brooke Stevens’s 1946 Willys Jeep Station Wagon gave new life to the ubiquitous wartime military vehicle. Continue reading

Gorfe´s Granadas: 1973 Ford Consul

Assistant-editor Myles Gorfe looks at another milestone in the annals of the Granada. Myles Gorfe writes:

In 1972 Ford pulled off what many thought was impossible. They managed to create a car that was even better and more popular than the UK-market Zephyr and the German market ´bahnstormer, the Ford P7 cars, known as the Taunus. That 1972 car became, after a little bit of uncertainty, the Granada.

Hot to trot - the 1973 Ford Consul, a Granada by another name: mobile.de

Hot to trot – the 1973 Ford Consul, a Granada by another name: mobile.de

For many outside the world of Granadas it comes as a bit of a surprise to see a Granada with the word “Consul” on the rakish, sporty bootlid. They sold the car with both names. It stayed like that until 1975 when the Consul name was dropped. Why did Ford who are famed for their marketing nous, sell one body with two names? Nobody really knows. The old chestnut that it was for legal reasons is codswallop. The story goes that the Granada Group (as Granada TV …”da da dat tah da!”) were unhappy with Ford using their name and sued. It can´t have been much of a lawsuit because some of the cars were called Granada and some weren´t. All of them were sold in Manchester so that story makes no sense.

The real reason was of course to help customers loyal to the stunning Consul make their way into the Granada if they hadn´t managed to Continue reading

Is this news then?

It´s Linda Jackson again, CEO of Citroën . More half-baked ideas.

More fun for Citroen, with a new Mehari: mariothemultipla.wordpress.com

More fun for Citroen, with a new Mehari: mariothemultipla.wordpress.com


In March we learned from Jackson that Citroëns are to be sold on style not price. Today´s news is that while planning to cut Citroën´s model ranges down to seven most important body-styles by 2020, one of them will be inspired by the Mehari, a less than practical 2CV variant with plastic cladding. Why? To make Citroën “fun”, says Jackson. So now we can add this to “style” as the main attractions of Citroën . Continue reading

Is this news?

Before penning this I consulted Simon about this story on the demise of the Citroën oleopneumatic suspension system. He reminded me that the matter had come up a year ago and indeed I had myself imagined that the current Citroën C5 would be the last hydraulic Citroën. What prompted me to think it was news was that TTAC reported it yesterday. And they got the story from…

1989 Citroen XM: oppositelock.kinja.com

1989 Citroen XM: oppositelock.kinja.com

Continue reading

Small details: more sagging lines

Obviously if Bruno Sacco is involved, a design decision is not trivial. Under scrutiny here is the decision to make the lower edge of the 1991 Mercedes  S-class sideglass sag by a very small amount. What effect did it achieve and would the car be better off without it? Here are four photos to show the effect of a straight lower window line. Obviously this sag is a deliberate choice. By removing it we can see what effect it was supposed to have. I think.

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Theme : Evolution – Or Metamorphosis?

We trace a direct descendent.

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In 1922, against great opposition from his board, Herbert Austin introduced his Seven into a market dominated by the rudimentary cyclecars that had sprung up in the wake of the First World War. The Seven was a proper small car and, unlike other ‘people’s cars’, it had no radical and untried solutions. It used a small 4 cylinder, front mounted engine, taking drive through a clutch and gearbox to a rear axle. The solid axle was suspended on elliptic springs but, because everything was so light, the springs did not need to be supported behind the axle and were just quarter springs flowing rather elegantly out of the line of the chassis to which they were fixed. In the event, the car was hugely successful, easy to maintain and has a loyal and committed following to this day, but it didn’t stop there. Continue reading

Ashtrays: 2014 Audi A6

I had reason to be in the back of Audi A6 the other day. They have rather swish taxis in Denmark, I would say. Seeing a fully functional ashtray in the door of the A6 made me raise my eyebrows and I had the time to take two slightly blurred shots of the design. I don´t much care for door mounted ashtrays. They are positioned so that you must make some funny movements to get the smoking hand by the window to the ashtray or else switch hands and cross over your lap with the burning baccy. Not that I have actually smoked in the back of a car in about fifteen years, mind you. It´s quite theoretical. 

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What are they buying in Chile?

Chile is south America´s most stable nation, well-ranked for lack of corruption and sustainability. Historically, it was also one of South America´s most Europeanised countries with its track record blown off course by the 1973 coup that ousted Salvador Allende, a coup helped by the US. Pinochet´s dictatorship ended following a plebiscite, and since then it has renormalized. There are 18 million Chilean living in this famously long and tassled country. What do they drive?

2015 Lifan 320

2015 Lifan 320

Recent economic history and its geography has a bearing on Chile´s automotive preferences. The peso has been weak, driving up the cost of imports. And Chile has no native manufacturers. The last local production facility, GM, closed in July 2008. Since then the Chinese have been aiming their brands towards Chile. Fortune reported: “…nobody is moving faster in Chile than the Chinese. At last count, 14 different brands of Chinese cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles were on sale in Chile – with more expected to arrive by the end of the year. They are a big hit, especially among younger, less affluent buyers who got their first exposure to Chinese brands buying motorcycles. Starting from scratch in 2005, annual unit sales of Chinese light vehicles sold in Chile reached nearly 3,000 last year, and Michel Pardal, manager of Latin American forecasting for J.D. Power & Associates, expects that number to quadruple in 2008. That would give Chinese carmakers a share of some 5% in just three years of Chile’s 270,000-vehicle market. Continue reading

A photo for Sunday: 1965-1973 Opel Kadett

The most interesting thing about the 1965 Kadett is that it donated parts to the Opel GT. And even more interesting is the 1968 Opel GT was made in France by Brisonneau and Lotz in Creil. Eight versions of the Kadett could be had: four door saloon, two door saloon, two door fastback, four door fastback, a two and four door estate and two variants, one known in German as a Kiemencoupé and the other the LS coupé. 

1963-1973 Opel Kadett

1963-1973 Opel Kadett

The Kadett  has a fair amount in common with the themes of the Dipolmat/Kapitan/Admiral saloons (1964) and Rekord B but scaled down. It appears to have kicked off the series of Continue reading

All change at VW in the font department

I am not an expert in graphic design which means the very subtle differences in sans-serif fonts often elude me, especially when the font is a version of Helvetica. For graphic designers such differences are as clear to them as the difference between an Audi A6 and an Audi A4 is to me. Thus it is with some bemusement I note VW has elected to change their corporate font to something very slightly different.

2015 VAG font change

If you look closely you notice the “a” has changed the most and the letters seem slightly different. Car Design News reports VW´s change with a straight face: “The carmaker says that its new typeface is inspired by “its distinctive vehicle design,” and that it’s “more contemporary, less geometric, and features more dynamic contrast” than the outgoing Continue reading

The Future’s Bright – (oh, hang on a second…)

'Wanna lift? I've got gesture control!' The new BMW 7-Series in Arctic Grey Brilliant Effect. Or is it Magellan Grey? Oh forget it. Image via BMW UK

BMW’s flagship in Arctic Grey Brilliant Effect. Or is that Magellan Grey? Hang on, that looks more like Jatoba. Oh forget it! Image via BMW UK

According to Autocar, who seemingly troubled the press pack – (something I’ll admit to not being bothered doing) – the newly announced BMW 7-Series will be available in a dazzling array of cheerful colours. Or to put it another way, it won’t. On the surface of things, the new 7’s colour palette looks even more drearily monochrome than its somewhat uninspired styling. Continue reading

Theme: Evolution – from iron bars to plastic assemblies

The role of the bumper can be inferred easily from the name. Originally they were mere metal bars attached to the front of the car, and were visually separate from the wings and grille they were intended to protect. Let´s take a quick look at how they changed over time from a piece of steel to complex plastic assemblies merged seamlessly to the rest of the car.

2015 Nissan Altima: where does the body start and bumper end? http://vietq.vn/so-sanh-xe-sedan-honda-accord-va-nissan-altima-d55126.html

2015 Nissan Altima: where does the body start and bumper end?

The Altima shows how far bumpers have come from being horizontal iron bars. The bumper has grown to be a part of the unified form of the car and at the moment is extending upward around and past the lamps, and rearward to take surface space from the pressed-steel elements of the cars. The wing is becoming a smaller proportion of the area of the car, leading to the need for unusually placed shutlines. Where did this all start? Continue reading

You´re bothering us with this carbon dioxide business, you know.

The ACEA calls on the EU to ‘rebalance’ its attitude to carbon dioxide emissions.

Carlos Ghosn asking for an easier time of it: ACEA.be

Carlos Ghosn asking for an easier time of it: ACEA.be

It´s not hard to guess the rebalancing is not in the direction of an even more stringent approach to reducing carbon emissions. Carlos Ghosn said “As Paris and the world gear up for the COP21 global climate change conference, we must make sure that ambitious climate change policies do not conflict with the need to protect jobs and growth in Europe.” The next interesting bit is this “By 2020 average emissions of new passenger cars will need to be reduced by 39% compared to their 2005 level. This compares to 10% reduction Continue reading

Small details: what is it with those slightly sagging window lines of the late 1970s?

A few days ago we posted an article about the 1978 Colt 1400. I noticed the window line sags slightly. The Opel Manta did this along with a few other cars of the era. What effect would it have had if the window line was dead straight? I did a simple edit on the original photo and found the difference between a dead straight line and the actual line is small. Does it look better? 

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Bristol returns to its BMW roots

Recent reports are suggesting that Bristol is going to return to car manufacture using BMW engines as part of a hybrid powertrain. 

Bristol 603, a hybrid of American and British engineering.

Bristol 603, a hybrid of American and British engineering.

The photo shows one of Bristol´s earlier efforts. The new cars are going to be rather different, featuring a bought-in engine from BMW and electric power systems from Frazer-Nash engineering who now own Bristol. Continue reading

Theme: Evolution – Coming Soon…

The S-Class' younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top of the range Merc? Image via Autocar

The S-Class’ younger, smarter and slightly cheaper brother. Still want that top range Benz? Image via Autocar

Next year’s Mercedes E-Class is primed to evolve ‘in-car connectivity’ and autonomous driving to the next level, says a report in Automotive News Europe this week. Thomas Weber, Daimler’s head of development, told ANE journalists; “Innovations in this area are coming thick and fast,”. Just how thick and how fast Sindelfingen’s 2016 mid-liner will be, DTW can now exclusively reveal. Continue reading

Long Term Test – Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav

The other day I wrote as a comment to someone else’s blog something bemoaning the fact that car magazines don’t write truly long term tests anymore. This morning, I realised on my drive into work that I had the perfect opportunity to right that wrong. So, change of working circumstance (and those of this website!?) aside, here’s my statement of intent – to write an irregular progress report on my new Mazda for as long as I keep it.

Mazda 3 Fastback - SVR photo

Mazda 3 Fastback – SVR photo

I bought the car as a means by which I get to work and back 3-4 days per week. I live 65 miles away from my place of work, over a mix of the M1, A43 and B4525 (otherwise known as the” Welsh Lanes”). This journey will form the bulk of the miles that I cover in the new car, but there will be exceptions. Previously, this had been the work of my other means of transport, the much referenced Citroen C6, which has become a little too inconsistent of recent months. Following a pitiful valuation and much encouragement from my family, I have kept “the QE2” as it is known at home, at least for the time being. It feels very decadent and almost ridiculous to me to Continue reading

Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 4

The Full Width Grille

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The linear, full-width grille was a staple of production car design for years. Always incorporating the headlamps, often sidelights and indicators, it was a logical reduction. The idea can be seen appearing in the States at the start of the 60s with the Ford Falcon, but where do we first see it in Europe? I’d propose the Glas 1004, introduced in 1961.

The rest of the car deserves consideration too. Its proportions are slightly odd, in part due to the cost saving carry-over of the previous model’s floorpan, but there is a lot to be seen here that we also see in the better-known products of other manufacturers that followed, in particular Audi, who stayed faithful to the full width grille for nearly 40 years.

Glas Photos : http://www.glasclub.de

Theme : Evolution – A Road To Nowhere?

Is design still evolving? As part of this month’s theme, DTW republishes a post from the beginning of last year


Does Car Design Have a Future?

Car design is usually late to the party. This isn’t because designers aren’t up to it – consider the bold output of the Bauhaus in the 1920s and 30s, when run by Walter Gropius, then consider his rather conventional design for an Adler car of the same period. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that critics felt that a car, an Audi, deserved the Bauhaus soubriquet. Compare 50s modernist and brutalist buildings with the florid vehicles produced then. Cars did vaguely get round to embracing minimalism, but by then it was the 70s, and architecture had started fiddling with post-modernism. It was only relatively recently that vehicle design started catching on to that, first in a lukewarm way with retro, then by introducing jokey references such as the half-height Citroen DS3 B-pillar, which seemed to support nothing, and the bug eyed lights and grinning grilles of various recent offerings. Why this conservatism? Well, producing items with a relatively long gestation period and a relatively long production life, designers are understandably anxious not to get it wrong although, of course, they so often do. In contrast, architects only really need to please a handful of people, commissioning clients and planners generally, the rest of us just get to look, gasp and wonder why the roof leaks.

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Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 3


Mazda 323F

Today, there is a dearth of truly practical hatchbacks. VW’s excellent Golf routinely gets lambasted by various enthusiasts as ‘boring’. Everyone want their family runabout to look like it belongs at the ‘Ring, and much of what is now on the market seems designed to flatter the driver’s self-image whilst ignoring their passengers needs. The lack of rear headroom, visibility and easy access in so many current bread and butter vehicles in the quest for someone’s idea of a cool exterior is now the norm, rather that the exception. But, if I wanted to point at a car that, at the time seemed rather refreshing for breaking away from the ubiquitous boxiness, I’d nominate the Mazda 323F from 1989..

1978 Colt 1400 road test

Renowned motoring writer Archie Vicar considers the 1978 Colt 1400. In this transcript from The Driver´s Periodical (November 1978) he reflects on what he felt was one of the year´s most significant new cars.

1978 Colt 1400: eBay.co.uk

1978 Colt 1400: eBay.co.uk

What is it that makes the Colt 1400 such a very interesting car? At first glance it would appear to be a rather inoffensively characterless family “hatchback” out of the same mould as the Renault 5 and Volkswagen Polo, merely offering another variation of noise and discomfort. The interior is available in an admittedly pleasant tan colour but the Colt 1400 makes no efforts at sporting appeal. The shapes are devoid of much decoration and could almost Continue reading