The dogma-free zone for automotive commentary.
We welcome comments. We also welcome contributors of long-form articles on any automotive topic.
The dogma-free zone for automotive commentary.
We welcome comments. We also welcome contributors of long-form articles on any automotive topic.
“Fore!” Archie Vicar casts a critical eye over the new “Golf,” successor to the much-loved Beetle.
Photography by Douglas Land-Windermere.
From “The London Illustrated News” February, 1976.
No matter how severely Jack Frost bites, a Volkswagen Beetle always starts. Even a royal Rolls-Royce can succumb to the effects of freezing whereas the humble Beetle´s ingenious design is cooled by air, making the engine as tough as old nails and as reliable as the Queen´s Grenadier Guards. I am reminding you, readers, of this as an introduction to a new car from Volkswagen.
The name Volkswagen has chosen for this new car might sound good auf Deutsch (“in German”) but to my seasoned ears, calling a car “Golf” puts one in mind of Continue reading
Was GM’s EV ever a contender?
Various things have recently caused me to think of things electric, though I admit that none of them involves me saving this or other planets. I had a mail the other week announcing a blanket 20mph limit in much of the area where I live, a process that is happening in many boroughs of London. Much of my driving in London is carried out in an old Audi S6, that burns both rubber and fuel with abandon, but gets me there no faster than anyone else. I dislike tube journeys. I can’t ride a pedal bike long distances without hurting my back. If I ride my motorcycle in wet weather I drip over people’s floors. I like silence. I want a new motoring experience. All these and more reasons make me think it would be nice to drive an electric car, or at least a part electric car.
Parallel hybrids don’t excite me – there is something conceptually clumsy about them, although I admit that a ride in a Prius was a pleasantly uninvolving business. My preference, based on what seems an elegant future solution Continue reading
Short trips: Archie Vicar on Cadillac´s new Fleetwood Brougham
Photos by Gary Purvis
From “Driving Weekly Magazine” Nov 1977
Drivers interested in something a little different might like to think about Cadillac´s new Fleetwood Brougham. Thanks to the fuel crisis (merely four years ago) Cadillac have taken the cleaver to their leviathans. They have shrunk their enormous aircraft carrier down to the size of a mere naval destroyer. The car is now 750 lbs lighter which is nearly half the weight of Volkswagen´s horrid little Golf. Smaller doesn´t mean Continue reading
The 43rd Most Influential Briton in the Car Industry 2004 was Steve Mattin.
Formerly the senior design manager at Mercdes Benz until 2004, he moved to Volvo when it was under Ford´s management. I happen not to care a great deal for Continue reading
Taking the Sir William test with Jaguar’s 2003 R-D6 concept…
Most concept cars are created to invite a dialogue with the customer about the future, or at the very least, nudge them towards the one the manufacturer has committed to. However, in the case of the concept cars prepared by Jaguar under the leadership of Ian Callum during the previous decade, it was more a case of forensic research. With Jaguar’s styling atrophied under the weight of over twenty years of introspection, it was more a case of asking; ‘what would Sir William have done?’ were he still in charge. Continue reading
In some ways, the 1980 Ferrari Pinin is a mess. But some of its details inspired later cars, none of which were Ferraris.
The proportions work quite well but one gets the impression Pininfarina had a hard time with the details and with marrying a form language that wanted to be Continue reading
Phase Three – 1981-1986: Trouble at ‘Mill
With Jaguar’s fortunes improving under Egan’s new regime, Jaguar’s car range underwent something of a sales renaissance. Now they were built properly, customers could appreciate their elegant lines and refined character anew. So despite the continued sales depression in the vital US market, Jaguar would go on to sell 21,632 cars worldwide in 1982 – up from 15, 640 the previous year. Despite this positive outlook however, Egan began actively seeking an exit from the BL straitjacket, at one stage telling a colleague in exasperation; “we’ve got to get clear of this lot!” Continue reading
DTW fails to test drive the New Twingo.
Following our disappointment with the Citroen Cactus, a viewing of the Renault Twingo has yielded a pleasant surprise.
Importantly, unlike other recent Renaults, the styling is not inspired by something from one of Mr van den Acker’s collection of sports shoes. The fact that it reminds me of a Fiat 500 is made more excusable if you consider that it, and not Fiat’s current version, is a truer spiritual updating of the original 500. Continue reading
Not just since Luca di Montezemolo’s dismissal have arguments about the merits and demerits of FCA CEO, Sergio Marchionne’s style of conducting business been rather heated. And now we are being presented with a particularly poignant case in point.
The 1983 (is it really that old?) Opel Junior was one of the stars of that year’s IAA at Frankfurt, where it debuted. Small and pert, the little Opel was the work of a team of designers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim styling centre, under the direction of Hideo Kodama. Amongst his team was Gert Hildebrand and neophyte, Chris Bangle, who, it is said, was responsible for the concept’s modular interior. Continue reading
It seems Honda didn´t think too much of this little concept car. They showed it at the Montreal Motor Show in 2013, at the same time the Detroit Motor Show was being held.
To be honest, I found this by accident. In 1992 or 1993 Honda showed a small concept car with a feature that has become a very common, the false reverse-raked c-pillar. I wanted to see the originator of this idea and then show a few of the cars that have used it these last 20 years: Continue reading
The 1998 Lancia Dialogos concept
During 1996, Lancia began work on a new large car concept. Lancia design director, Mike Robinson was briefed to create a car that would honour marque traditions, while also being a showcase for upcoming in-car technology being developed by Fiat at the time. The concept was also intended to preview the next generation full-sized Lancia saloon style. Continue reading
This has turned into something of a long-term test. With a third chance to drive the car, DTW has some extra insight on living with Toyota´s second smallest car.
Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of adding another four days to the tally of six, is that a few important details have turned up, all of them bad. DTW conducted most of the original testing when the days were longer. This time, night driving in humid weather has shown up two details that might
Just a few days ago I noted that we at DTW had not treated BMW to some of our ire. Here is some ire. Or something passing itself off as such.
The car above is the 2015 BMW 2-series “active tourer” which is a five-door, front-drive hatchback with a great deal in common with the 2011Ford C-Max which is five-door, front-drive five seater hatchback (below) that sells for a lot less. And looks better.
While admitting that Chris Bangle´s 5-series was, after all, a very good design which still looks fresh, much of the subsequent output from Munich has been Continue reading
Déjà vu on the show circuit
Earlier this year at the Geneva Motor show, Maserati displayed the Alfieri concept; a preview for a new Maserati Grand Turismo, aimed at the sort of affluent customer who might otherwise choose a Porsche 911, Aston Martin or heaven help us – one of those vulgar new Mercedes-AMG things. Continue reading
Mini’s 2011 Rocketman Concept
At the 2011 Geneva Motor show, MINI debuted the Rocketman concept and from Paris to Peterborough, Mini enthusiasts wept with relief, because here at last was a proper Mini-sized MINI, rather than the lumbering behemoths that were actually available for purchase. Continue reading
The limping cat: In this third part Driven to Write asks why Jaguar continues to under-perform in its most crucial market? Continue reading
Automotive News Europe has reported that PSA have launched a China-only vehicle, their second. It is the DS6 crossover.
The appearance is generic SUV while the grille and lights show China´s DS styling. From there back, it´s file under “Forget”.For a brand allegedly majoring in style this is a major puzzle. For a firm as indifferent to the meaning of DS, this entirely to be expected. And we can see this as sign of the future developments for DS, along with the possibility of Continue reading
In the second part of Driven to Write’s examination of JLR, we dissect Land-Rover’s market stratification, Ford’s powertrain legacy, and JLR’s still imperfect reliability record. Continue reading
Following on the heels of the Divine, the Paris Salon was today stunned by another offering from PSA’s ambitious DS brand, its latest concept the DSupérficiâle. Originally thought by diehard enthusiasts to be a homage to the D Super, itself the successor to the classic ‘no-frills’ ID19, PSA was anxious to dispel such misconceptions. At the press launch, DS spokesman Jean Conneries, standing in front of a still-shrouded shape, explained the philosophy behind the car.
We are foremost a French brand. We must build on that as the 21st Century progresses. However, in the past we have mistakenly concentrated too much on those aspects of heritage that are specifically Citroën. France has a huge heritage that it has bequeathed the World and foremost in that is philosophy. The philosophy of this car is ….. philosophy itself! Continue reading
Spare a thought for the Isuzu Vehicross. Isuzu revealed the Vehicross as a concept at the 1993 Tokyo Motor show and the production car went on sale in 1997. Who thinks about it today?
The Vehicross survived for four years until 2001 and has sunk without leaving very much of a trace. However, it merits a second look. In 2013, Michael George at Jalopnik wrote : “Let’s check off all the ways the Vehicross is a unique snowflake in the most boring automotive landscape of all. A design that still seems futuristic today? Check. It comes from a much-beloved dead brand? Check. Sophisticated all-wheel-drive technology that makes it a highly-competent off roader? Check. General mechanical toughness? Check. Rarity? Check. Always designed to be a one-run niche vehicle? Check.” For this reason he sees it as future classic. If you want one, look here where a 1998 with an absurd 3.2 litre engine is for sale for £6500. That´s not a lot of money for a rather interesting motor car. Continue reading
This brief post seems to fall into our monthly Theme category as it is about a concept car. It was inspired by Sean´s post about Tatra´s retirement from making road-going automobiles and what might have been.
In the last few years of the Clinton administration a sizeable grant was made to the US car builders to help them develop fuel efficient large cars. Among the goals, the companies were to aim for was to reduce fuel use to 80 mpg. We seem to be slowly getting to this although with smaller cars. GM´s response to this grant was the Precept, the appearance of which seems to me to not too unlike a Tatra. Whether this is a case of convergent evolution or actual direct inspiration, I can´t say.
The GM Precept used a formula familiar to us today although the packaging is rather inconvenient – more on that later. An Isuzu 1.3 litre, three-cylinder, direct injection turbo was located in the rear of the car where the boot should be. That explains Continue reading
Today we reprint another transcript from the vaults. This story set the template for the continental motor trip that became a staple of automotive journalism. In this extract, Archie Vicar continues touring from London to Latvia in Jaguar´s new XJ-6. His mission, to test this important new saloon and to recover his hand-made shoes left behind on a previous jaunt. The striking original photography is by Douglas Land-Windermere.
From “Private Motor Car Owner” (pages 34-39, page 109, page 116, December, 1968)
Getting into Latvia was a breeze. We presented our passports and sacrificed a few cherished boxes of Craven “A” cigarettes and we were in. Even the sight of the new Jaguar, in De Luxe trim and virtually rust free, didn´t make the unshaven brute at the border blink. It seemed like we would sail through under the dusty hem of the Iron Curtain.
But then we spent 9 hours waiting at a road-block deep in the middle of nowhere.
Dashing through fields the size of Rutland while caning the XJ´s 6-pot engine (cc/170 in³) I appreciated the civil ride (courtesy of the telescopic dampers). Then I noticed what looked like a telephone box. I knew something was skew-whiff since they don´t have ‘phones in Latvia. It was a check-point. Dropping my fag into the deep-pile lambswool carpet, I gripped the controls and stamped on the stop pedal for all I was worth. An alarmed-looking sentry sprang from the wooden crate and noticed a hundred yards of dust rising behind the tail of Browns Lane´s barge. Such was the violence of the braking that CONTINUE READING
Driven to Write examines the JLR success story…
Jaguar Land Rover’s commercial renaissance over the past five years has prompted a deluge of scepticism in some quarters, because on the surface of things at least, its rapid turnaround has stretched belief. When the Ford Motor Company sold the Jaguar and Land Rover brands to Indian industrial giant, Tata Group for £1.2bn in 2008, both businesses were loss makers – Jaguar in characteristically epic fashion. Continue reading
Renault have decided to abandon yet another category of car. This time they have given up on space-focused people movers.
The Renault Espace was a trend setter and for two decades ruled the roost in the MPV class. The original version is now three decades old and still has a tidy, neat appearance of purest industrial design. This sat well with Renault´s custom of quite rational cars. The last generation did not get out of the show room fast enough. It was Continue reading
Museums of the Alternative Motoring Universes of Both Porsche and Tatra
A recent visit to Austria was intended to lead to a return by way of Prague and, en route, a further diversion would be made to the Technical Museum Tatra in Kopřivnice. The Tatra company has a long and fine pedigree, and the streamlined 30s Tatras of Hans Ledwinka and his team, as well as their post-War successors, have long fascinated me and, to someone frustrated by cordons, the museum tantalisingly offers that “some of our exhibits and models are available for you to touch”. In the event, time conspired to make the zig-zag trip north impractical, though I strongly hope that I will have another chance.
What is to be made of the DS Divine concept car? Is it a Good Thing that PSA now has Peugeot, Citroen and the DS brands to manage?
As we know, PSA has decided, in its wisdom, to divide its efforts no longer in two, but three. From hereonin (or, at least until PSA has gone to the hereafter), the Sino-French giant will furnish the market with Peugeots, Citroens and DSs (the latter to be shorn of the Citroen moniker sometime next year, in the UK at least, so it is reported). One can assume that the thinking here is that: a) it gives the opportunity to spread capital investment in new platforms across three brands and, therefore, potentially, more cars sold; and, b) that PSA can charge a premium for those sold under the DS badge. To be fair, it seems that Continue reading
Look at the future as it was in 1995 and look at the future circa 2015. Are we going back in time? Sideways?
I was moved to write this when I saw a breathless announcement at French Cars In America that there was a new Renault Laguna on the way. They alleged that the car was going to be shown at the Paris Motor show (happening around now, if you reading this in 2016 sometime) They got their story from Auto Plus. While cross checking it I found that Auto Express had nothing to say on the matter at all. So, I don´t know if the car really will be sold or is just a Photoshop story. Assuming the car looks a little like the one shown above we have another Continue reading
Getting it Right at Precisely the wrong Time
At the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, Saab presented a concept that perfectly encapsulated the future direction the marque needed to have taken. That its non-adoption occurred was probably inevitable given the factors massed against it; Continue reading
Phase Three – 1981-1986: Picking Up the Pieces
As we have seen, the first two phases of XJ40’s development story centred around the various battles played out in order to retain Jaguar’s identity. This third phase however, would become dominated by efforts to remove themselves from BL’s influence entirely. Continue reading
The received wisdom is that the Juke is an odd-looking vehicle with no obvious purpose. Is this true? I drove one in order to find out.
To avoid disappointing people I´ll get the driving stuff out of the way immediately. After three hours on a route that took me from Stansted Airport to almost exactly the dead centre of Britain I had covered every major road type available in England barring gravel and mud. On motorways the Juke in 1.6 litre flavour can keep up with traffic and proceed to license-losing speed and stay at that pace unbothered for as long as you care to keep risking your permission to drive. The ride is comfortable but the car´s a bit noisier than I´d have expected. I wonder if Continue reading
One of the last Lancias had a five year gestation from concept car to production. In this case there were two concepts, a real one and a pre-production model. One of them was not helpful.
Lancia showed 2003 Lancia Granturismo Stilnovo Barcelona motor show as a genuine kite-flying concept car, one of quite a few they showed around this time. Three years later these ideas were translated into the production ready 2006 Lancia Delta HPE concept revealed at the Venice International Film Festival which then took a remarkable 2 years to get to an official launch by which time the styling had staled somewhat. You have to look at the 2006 and 2008 cars side by side to notice any difference so we can conclude the 2006 car is Continue reading
Not all concept cars are designed by design consultancies or manufacturer´s own studios.
I have covered the work of the Pforzheim Design School recently. Today, presented as freelance concept designs, rather than as student work, here is David Obendorfer´s work. He graduated from the MOME Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design of Budapest and has been working for the Officina Italiana Design of Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta for 5 years; they mainly deal with Riva boats and general ship design too. Obendorfer has taken some 70s themes and presented them in a modern idiom. We can take this to really mean Continue reading
When confronted by a question of taste, I always ask myself, what would Bryan Ferry do.? My extensive research has thrown up a nice example of a sub-set of a subset, designer accessories for designer editions of mass produced cars. It´s Gucci fitted luggage for the 1979 Cadillac Seville. Would Bryan Ferry go for this or not?
The Big Two and a Half in the US have been more prone to tie-ins and designer editions of their cars than we have here in the social-democratic paradise of Western Europe. Cartier have been associated with Lincoln; Bill Blass added his magical touch to the understated elegance of the 1979 Lincoln Continental Mk V; there was the 1984 Fila-edition Ford Thunderbird; AMC asked Oleg Cassini – yes, that Oleg Cassini – to trim the 1974 Matador, for example. Just recently I have become aware of the Gucci fitted luggage that came with the Gucci-edition Cadillac Seville, truly a part of this very fine tradition. Continue reading
What is a concept car? What was its past like and how did its future evolve? Why do we have concept cars at all?
We are late in the automobile era. It is ending as cars become banalities and as the illusion of mass personal transportation dissolves. Consequently, the car´s future might even be over already. In 1971 the future was staggeringly unlike the present. In a properly realised future all signs of the present are gone. A 1971 concept car shared only wheels with the cars on sale at the time. To judge by the work of designers and students now tasked with imagining the future, the future looks a lot like now. In contrast, the further back we go, the more improbable concept cars seemed to be in comparison with the vehicles customers could buy. Compare the two Buicks (below) for example. If we go even longer into the past, before the year 1938, then it was only necessary for the car to be better than the fore-runner, the horse-and-carriage. There was no need of a future as the present was advanced enough.
Concept cars are designs that exist to be compared to something else. They are as much an element of marketing as expressions of intent about directions in which aesthetics and engineering can go. For this essay I shall consider Continue reading
We started with the premise that advertising was a means to create dissatisfaction.
Car advertising, for the most part, has lived up entirely to this. The exceptions such as those described by Sam, Eoin and myself, have not created dissatisfaction but other negative feelings unsuited to selling cars. The French advertising for the R14 was actually very honourable in that it seemed only to want to tell customers that the car was Continue reading
Further to our editor, Simon A Kearne’s recent piece recounting the colourful life and times of Victory Motors’ Len Brik, it seems appropriate to append this extract from Simon’s excellent biography of rival and arch-nemesis Sir Basil Milford-Vestibule, detailing the only recorded meeting between the two bitter rivals which took place at the 1957 Olympia Motor Show. Continue reading
I should really have resolved this pressing question a long time ago. I think I may have sorted it out so you don´t have to.
Not unlike Thompson and Thomson: Hyundai and Kia. The same corporation owns them, in a situation reminiscent of PSA who look after Peugeot and Citroen. Citroen had a long and interesting life up until Michelin sold the firm to Peugeot and in the intervening years it has been easy to tell one marque from the other despite common ownership (Saxo and 106 are exceptions). In the case of Hyundai and Kia, no obvious trait serves to hang brand differentiation on. Having been offered the choice of a Kia Ceed or a Hyundai i30 at the rental company recently I was forced to Continue reading
How did a second chance to drive the 2014 Toyota Aygo alter my view?
A while back I tested the Toyota Aygo and reported here on my impressions. I have had another chance to sample the same car (Sept. 19-21). This time I did a bit of silly driving and paid attention to a strange characteristic of the gear shift recommendations.
The silly driving resulted in some sliding and understeer which I didn´t mind much at all. What I noticed though was the power band and gearing behaviour became a nuisance. The main feature involved a dead spot in third and fourth gear. Upshifts from first to second didn´t attract my attention. The first to second comes at about 30 kmph. Second to third produces a similar amount of acceleration up to 50 kmph. So far so fine. Then Continue reading
In order to say why I can´t really write about this I had to do some research. It´s amazing what you don´t read in magazines.
The V40 was introduced in 2012 for 2013 and all I noticed about it since then is the daft crease in the bodyside which is supposed to evoque the P1800. The V40 is a hatchback though Volvo describe it as an estate, I suppose. Whilst the designer of the 2004 S40 is probably only named in Auto&Design magazine, the V40 can claim Peter Horbury as its creator (cited at Wikipedia). Some would say the V40 is dynamic and expressive. I find it a design I can´t look at for long as there seems to be so little there, underneath all the details. The predecessor, the 2004 S40 saloon and V40 estate manage to be Continue reading
In late August the students of the renowned Pforzheim Automotive MA degree course held their summer show…
…it all looked lovely. I meant to write about this a bit sooner but other subjects demanded my time. However, the main points I wanted to make are still valid. I could easily have selected another degree show but this one is the excuse to make them as they are general to all design courses, I feel.
The first thing to keep in mind with the Pforzheim MA course is that Continue reading
Vauxhall’s use of the ‘Once Driven Forever Smitten’ adline throughout the latter 1980’s and 90’s never truly sounded right. It carried with it a sense of deadlines unmet and frantic solutions cobbled together. It also suggested not so much a creative team out of ideas, more a client without a clue.
The new Ford Mondeo will finally be on sale in 2015, just three long, long years after the launch of the car it was based on.
Above we see the 2000 Ford Mondeo, styled under the reign of Claude Lobo and Chris Bird. Then we have the 2006 version credited to Martin Smith but which is probably mostly a Chris Bird car. And finally, we have the 2015 car which I gather was Continue reading
Phase Two – 1976-1980: Egan Takes Knight
Throughout 1979, Sir Michael Edwardes began talking to the man he believed could pull Jaguar out of the abyss. John Egan had previously revived the ailing BL Unipart business before quitting in the post-Ryder schisms. Now at the helm of Massey Ferguson, Egan had all the right credentials. The only problem was convincing him to take the job. Continue reading
This post actually involves neither Ricardo Montalbán nor Benedict Cumberbatch. Instead, this is about a video presenting one of the few genuinely decadent motor cars on sale today, the Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Unlike certain motion picture formats concerning the automobile, this little film isn’t about a tarred-and-feathered Rolls-Royce that has to cross the Gobi desert before the egg on its motor block has been fried to a crisp. It simply tries to understand the appeal of the car in its most likely habitat. And appeal it does, in a sense I personally find somewhat perplexing in this day and age of oversaturation.
There is still a sense of luxury in existence that manages to astonish.
See for yourself whether you can find the point of something that one may consider tastefully excessive:
Vorsprung durch… advertising.
When (Sir) John Hegarty; doyen of UK advertising (and co-founder of renowned ad-agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty) took on the Audi creative account back in 1982 the Ingolstadt marque’s image was somewhat woolly. Continue reading
There’s that Dream Garage that most car people compile at least once in their lives, and some car people compile once a week – or three times a day. Generally these are straightforward cars, exotic maybe, but four wheels, internal combustion engine and at least two seats. Of course I have one of these which, with the exception of a couple of constants such as an R Type Bentley Continental, is usually in a state of flux. However, there’s also that other list of vehicles that are possibly even less practical than a Lamborghini Murceliago (a car I have so little interest in I can’t even be bothered to spell-check) but that exert a strange fascination. For me that list is less changeable.
In 1976, Renault launched a car which set the template for the midsized hatchback which became the default choice of households, if not the world over, at least in Europe…
The ill-advised press campaign that soon followed, however, made a fool of their customers – and of the rest of the motor industry. Building on the success of the R4 and R16, and just like the R5 a few years before it, the R14 offered maximum interior space for passengers and their luggage in a compact footprint, draped in a modern, unostentatious bodywork. Continue reading
As Luca di Montezemolo’s reign at Ferrari comes to an end, an entire chapter of Italy’s automotive industry – as well as culture – is being closed.