Diamond Life

Architects and motor cars have not always co-existed harmoniously. Today’s subject however, is something of an exception. 

(c) Motori corriere.it

Richard Buckminster Fuller’s foray into the automotive world with his Dymaxion car of 1933 is frequently brought forward when the discussion topic is raised about car concepts that were simply too far ahead of their time for their own good. The radical ideas and look of the Dymaxion were indeed in clear violation* of MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) – the guiding design principle of well known contemporary, Raymond Loewy.

Two decades after Buckminster Fuller presented Dymaxion, another famed architect came up with a car design that was considered too far out at the time of its introduction: Gio Ponti. The Italian’s Linea Diamante dates from 1953 but its styling and interior concept were very much of another, future decade. Continue reading “Diamond Life”

Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)

Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly. We look back over this unhappy union.

(c) petrolicious

Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, GM looked on enviously as its arch-rival Ford carefully and methodically assembled the pieces of what would become its Premier Automotive Group* (PAG), a stable of European premium, sports and luxury car marques to which it would add its own Lincoln and Mercury brands.

Ford began by acquiring an interest in Aston Martin in 1987, then assuming full control in 1991. It purchased Jaguar in 1989, followed by Volvo’s car business a decade later. In 2000, Ford acquired Land-Rover from the wreckage of BMW’s failed ownership of Rover Group, which it folded into the newly formed PAG.

The latter acquisition was particularly painful for GM because, in March 1986, it had agreed the purchase of Land-Rover, then part of the nationalised British Leyland, from the UK government before a public outcry and political pressure forced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)”

Mother of Invention

Making a little go that bit further. 

(c) drivezing

Throughout the 1960s, US carmakers enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, with a buoyant domestic market, cheap, plentiful fuel and a customer base who had wholeheartedly bought into the concept of plenty – at a superficial level at least. Because beneath the giddy headline figures, sales of imported cars were giving the movers and shakers of Detroit serious pause.

The encroach of smaller, more fuel-efficient models, notably Volkswagen’s cult-car Beetle, prompted American carmakers to Continue reading “Mother of Invention”

A Photo for Sunday: 1986 Porsche 928 S2

It was the future, once.

All images courtesy of the author

The rural East Anglian market town my partner and I call home has many fine qualities, but it is emphatically not a nirvana for car spotters. Suffolk and Norfolk people have mainly conservative tastes in matters automotive and even our most affluent neighbours tend to Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1986 Porsche 928 S2”

Fontana a Tre Vie

Lancia’s idiosyncratic Beta Tre Volumi turns 40.

Image: Ran When Parked
Image: (c) Ran When Parked

This article first appeared on 3 February 2017.

The Lancia Trevi is an unusual car, not simply because it was and remains an intriguing one to behold. For one thing it may well be the only car that began life as a fastback saloon (with a separate boot compartment), and ended it as a three-volume version. There have been innumerable saloon from hatchback conversions (and vice-versa), but a saloon from a saloon?

It’s clear that the Trevi was a stopgap. By right, Lancia should have readied an all-new replacement by then, but that failed to materialise. Of course lengthy production runs were by no means unusual either for Lancia or within the sprawling Fiat Auto grouping they had become an unwilling hostage to. Couple this with a crisis both of confidence and managerial competence which afflicted the entire Fiat Auto group in the wake of the 1973 oil embargo, to say nothing of Fiat’s inability to Continue reading “Fontana a Tre Vie”

Bland Recipe? Add E-621

A late evening encounter with a synthesized Audi crossover got our Sheffield operative thinking about additives. 

ebay.com

Mono Sodium Glutamate, or MSG was invented back in 1908 by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda who was searching for a food additive he named umami which is given as “neither sweet, nor salty, bitter or sour” and was marketed by the fledgling Suzuki company, though under the brand name Aji-no-moto, itself a part of Suzuki pharmaceuticals. Its European name is E-621. Do Suzuki make a car with that code name in Japan?

In the halcyon pre-Covid past, a night out at a local Latin American restaurant, where the tapas was tasty, the cigars and rum both plentiful and expensive (neither sampled) and the beats both seductive and loud, led to a rather unexpected (and frustrating) conversation regarding car design with my better half. Well kind of. The rum and ‘gars must Continue reading “Bland Recipe? Add E-621”

A Promise Fulfilled (Part Two)

Concluding our retrospective on a car that went from cynical marketing exercise to icon for a generation of drivers.

Capri II (c) speeddoctor

The Mk2 Capri was launched in February 1974. In the immediate aftermath of the Oil Crisis and quadrupling of OPEC oil prices, Ford seemed to have suffered some loss of nerve and decided to make the new model rather more practical and less overtly sporting than the Mk1. The bonnet was shorter, the interior enlarged, with a hatchback and folding rear seats instead of a separate boot. The emphasis seemed to have changed to Continue reading “A Promise Fulfilled (Part Two)”

Limiting Screentime

Good news for a change. Honda is switching back to rotary dials, Autocar reports.

2020 Honda Jazz, with added rotaries. (c) Autocar

It has been something of a Driven to Write hobbyhorse to not merely bemoan, but berate carmakers about the dereliction of responsibility they have for the people who variously operate their products. I speak of the wholesale refutation of years of ergonomic and haptic research into the user-functionality within vehicle cabins by the adoption of touch-screen interfaces.

There is little doubt (and even less evidence to the contrary) that the widespread and still-growing use of touchscreens is occurring primarily due to matters of fashion and cost – it now being both cheaper and easier to Continue reading “Limiting Screentime”

Let’s Make A Cake, Let’s Bake Some Bread

UMM mde these from 1977 to 1984. It’s a 4×4 vehicle with a Peugeot diesel engine and gearbox. Production started in France and moved to Portugal in 1979

UMM 4×4, Lisbon

There is not a lot out there about these vehicles and the pictures say the most. What I will do instead is take this as a chance to Continue reading “Let’s Make A Cake, Let’s Bake Some Bread”

A Promise Fulfilled (Part One)

A retrospective on a car that went from cynical marketing exercise to icon for a generation of drivers.

(c) avengers-in-time

That Ford chose to produce the Capri was as logical as night following day.  The US Ford Mustang, launched five years earlier and, like the Capri, based largely on a humble sedan (the Falcon), had been a huge sales success. Ford had expected to shift around 100,000 Mustangs annually, but 400,000 were sold in its first year and a further 600,000 in its second year of production.  Little wonder that, on seeing these numbers, Ford Europe decided to Continue reading “A Promise Fulfilled (Part One)”

A Photo For Sunday: 1988 Volvo 240 GL Estate

The ever-popular PFS returns with a perennial favourite of DTW, the 240 GL, as seen yesterday.

There’s a potentially vivid discussion waiting to be kicked off with this image. Or two. Without any shadow of a doubt one can Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1988 Volvo 240 GL Estate”

After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up

The sunlight really helped in this instance. The car shone out. Modern vehicles mostly don’t come in colours like this. So even from 800 metres I could tell this was very likely worth a closer inspection.

1976-1982 Audi 100 (C2)

The Audi is parked so close to the wall that you can’t see the badges – or, you couldn’t if they were there. By the time I got back with my camera the light had changed so I could not snap the car from the best view with the best light. However, art is often about rules and what are rules but limitations. It makes things interesting when you have requirements to satisfy. Such binding of the hands actually really helps one Continue reading “After The Middle The Pace Speeds Up”

Gorden? Nein, Dieter!

An old friend reappears. Well, of sorts…

Image: Mercedes-Benz

Hi there. The name’s Dieter Ogley. Born in Heidelberg, well, just outside at Boxberg but raised in Barnsley, South Yorkshire from the age of twelve. My mother was a nurse at the local hospital, whereas my dad was a mining engineer who was offered a job in the then thriving coal business in Barnsley.

This meant leaving our German roots and coming over to England, since the job offered dad a whole new world underground to explore. But then the big strike happened and the work dried up. Mining became a forgotten venture; it still occurred but with only so many jobs to go round, it was hard to Continue reading “Gorden? Nein, Dieter!”

The Aurelian Way

The Lancista’s Lancia turns 70. 

1950 Lancia Aurelia B10 -(c) carstylecritic

If one was to carry out a poll amongst Lanciaphiles as to the quintessential model in the storied marque’s history, there is likely to be a certain amount of heated debate. While some might cleave to the innovative and undoubtedly influential Lambda of 1922, it’s probably more likely the Aurelia would garner the majority vote.

Borgo San Paolo’s 1950 entrant was Lancia’s first genuinely new product of the post-hostility period, replacing the emblematic Aprilia, which ceased production the previous year; the latter model itself a ground breaker in design terms mating fully independent suspension, a narrow-angle V4 engine and pillarless construction within an aerodynamically streamlined, stressed bodyshell.

The Aurelia was intended as a larger, more refined car, aimed at the affluent owner-driver. Italy was for the most part impoverished and war-torn from years of conflict by the close of the 1940s, with large swathes of the population who could only dream of car ownership, but there remained a base of professionals, wealthy industrialists and titled nobility who could Continue reading “The Aurelian Way”

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Spain may not be famous for coachbuilders the way their colleagues to the North and on the opposite side of the Mediterranean are, but that is not to say there were none.

Dodge Serra (c) Autopista es

Pedro Serra Vidal (1926-2017) was born into the automobile business. His father owned a large automotive workshop and coachbuilding business in Barcelona, where the young Serra Vidal learned the trade and gathered the necessary experience.

His talent quickly became obvious and he would go on to Continue reading “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

A Word From The Editorial Team

Dear Readers: Inspired by the staff at Autocar, we would like to mention that it might be a bit more work than usual to keep the DTW printing presses fed.

The DTW placeholder image is called forth: (c) source

Coronovirus has been a major disruptor and DTW is not immune. While this situation persists we’ll be doing our best to carry on providing content on a daily basis. If there are small pauses in output we would earnestly ask you to Continue reading “A Word From The Editorial Team”

One At A Time The Days Arrived And Never Departed

Just the other day I was thinking about grilles (front grilles, of course). Today I ask you again to consider the Jaguar XJ-S, that famously endearing monster.

Jaguar XJ-S. A likeable mess.

Of course the car is not just viewed from the front. From other views the effect vanishes and you notice the plan curvature and also the way the central bonnet edge is set below the level of the lamps. But let’s Continue reading “One At A Time The Days Arrived And Never Departed”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Five)

Daniel O’Callaghan’s digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’. In this concluding part, GM hits the buffers and goes cap in hand to the US Government.

(c) leblogauto

At the start of 2008, the outlook appeared quite promising for GM. Its more recent models had been well received and the company had won North American Car of the Year for 2007 and 2008 with the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu. The company had agreed with the UAW a new wage deal and a plan to move the worker healthcare liabilities off the GM balance sheet and into a new fund that GM would set up, but would Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Five)”

The Storms Of Swanlinbar

This DS flagship is aimed at the Audi A4. At this rate, DS will be offering C-D class cars to compete with Audi’s A2 and BMWs 2-series.

DS 9. Worth an Audi A4, apparently. Source: Autocar.

DS are saying that “prestige” will have been reached when the DS9 can compete with not the A6, E-Class or 5-series but the Audi A4. That is quite a marked drop in expectations, n’est ce pas? If we are prepared to take it upon ourselves to gather all our strength and try honestly to Continue reading “The Storms Of Swanlinbar”

Icing the Cherry

50 years old this year, the Datsun 100A takes a bow.

(c) zonedatsun.fr

Here on the pages of Driven to Write, we have spent a good deal of the recent past discussing aspects of the Toyota marque and its associated brands. Not so however with regard to its once great rival and commercial antagonist, Nissan.

Upon its introduction to European (and US) shores, Nissan cars were sold under the Datsun brand name, for reasons which aren’t entirely clear, but probably pertain to marketing considerations. For Datsun, then an almost entirely unknown brand, their breakthrough motor car arrived in the envelope of the 100A Cherry, a compact front-wheel-drive supermini.

It’s probably fair to Continue reading “Icing the Cherry”

Game Changer

From humble and unlikely beginnings, the Audi Quattro would permanently redefine its maker’s image. Daniel O’Callaghan looks back on the development and influence of this seminal model in the company’s history.

1980 Audi Quattro. (c) weilinet

The Audi Quattro owes its existence to the German Army’s urgent need in the late-1970’s to replace its aged DKW Munga four-wheel-drive light utility vehicles with a more modern successor. The Munga had ceased production in 1968 and its outdated two-stroke engined design was overdue for replacement. Its intended successor was the Europa Jeep, a joint-venture project involving a number of European governments that had been in development for a decade before finally collapsing acrimoniously in 1979.

Anticipating this outcome, the German Army instead invited domestic automobile manufacturers to design a replacement for the Munga.  Volkswagen passed the project to Audi, who had access to the Munga’s technology and patents via the Auto Union partnership, so was able quickly to Continue reading “Game Changer”

All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went

A random glance at a Mazda Demio made me think again about grilles and the way designers deal with that hole in the front of the car.

wikipedia.org
(c) wikipedia.org

The subject unfolds as a matter of design semantics. That means more or less we are concerned with the meaning of the air intake and its expression. This Demio (above) is a bit fancier than the one I saw in my district but it is geometrically the same. The approach was to use an “egg-box” in-fill and to use a U-shaped plastic trim piece to enable them to Continue reading “All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went”

The Beast

Our Sheffield correspondent encounters a Cullinan. 

One of RR’s better efforts. (c) Rolls-Royce.com

Sheffield is a city synonymous for not only making but also the shaping of steel. Construction and heavy industry to more specific, not to mention artisanal variations such as myriad uses in the cutlery, aero and medical fields. Some of that steel ends up in the carmaking business. Sadly, some too resides within men’s hearts.

The site of our local retail park was once Fox steel works of Stocksbridge, providing employment for the whole town at one point, making the steel and wire for umbrellas. When the 1980s recession hit, the steel ceased flowing and a dilapidated site remained for years. That is until the supermarkets began to take over land purchases from house builders, before even those plans went west. This left a cleared area but nothing to build. Until Mark Dransfield and his property investment business arrived to Continue reading “The Beast”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Four)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, examining GM’s latterday approach to alternative propulsion.

1996 GM EV1. Image: oldcarbrochures

GM’s expansion to become a global company had largely been built on acquisitions: Opel and Vauxhall in Europe, Holden in Australia and Daewoo’s automotive business in South Korea. These companies continued to operate with a high degree of autonomy in product design and engineering. It was argued that this enabled the companies to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Four)”

Over the Rainbow

The Renault 9 was considered blandness personified. But not all the design proposals were. 

1981 Renault 9. saripahmunaek.blogspot.com

Occasionally, when one is presented with a rejected concept for a well-known car design, one experiences a frisson of regret, a sharp sense of opportunity missed. More often however, one is reminded of the essential rightness of the production concept chosen. But once in a while, one finds oneself staring in disbelief, wondering what were they thinking? But let’s not Continue reading “Over the Rainbow”

Take Five

Remembering a memorable Renault.

(c) stubs-auto-fr

In 1976, Renault introduced the 5 GTL, a version of France’s best seller which was intended to appeal to more economy-conscious customers. Powered by a detuned version of the 5 TS’ 1289 cc engine, it was a low-revving, relatively unstressed power unit, aimed at reducing fuel consumption – in a rudimentary manner perhaps, predating BMW’s more elaborate attempts at achieving a similar goal with their ETA engine programme the following decade.

At the time at least, it went against the orthodoxy of using a smaller capacity engine to Continue reading “Take Five”

H.E.L.P. I’m A Toyota, Get Me Outta Here!

It’s the Toyota reality show, folks! 

toyota-hi-lux
(c) Toyota.global.com

Having originated with the production of looms, the Toyota motor company have since made significant inroads into driving the world. While Germany may be the car’s father, its mother French, to say nothing of its American cousin who made it larger than life, we must look East for precision and calculation. And a nice slice of toast. Good: on with the show.

The H from the above title refers to Hilux, that simple derivation of High and Luxury which has gone on to be a worldwide success story. Now onto its 8th generation and upwards of seventeen million sold since its 1968 inception – beloved by farmer, builder, explorer, desert racer. More commonly today with the office worker.

Keen to Continue reading “H.E.L.P. I’m A Toyota, Get Me Outta Here!”

Roll of Shame

Some crashes have potentially disastrous consequences, and not just for flesh, blood, glass and metal.

Flippin’ Elk, it’s a roll-over! (c) motorpasión.com

The first-generation Mercedes-Benz (W168) A-Class was one of the most radical, bold and innovative designs in the company’s history. It was not only the company’s first transverse-engined FWD production car, but featured an innovative sandwich double-floor structure and an unusually tall but short body that was designed to provide greater than C-Segment passenger accommodation within a footprint no larger than that of a B-Segment supermini. The engine and transmission were engineered in such a way that, in the event of a heavy frontal impact, they would Continue reading “Roll of Shame”

Der Lebensretter

Thousands of motorists owe their lives to one man’s quest to design safer motor cars. We pay tribute to a engineering pioneer. 

Béla Barényi. (c) Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz legend was built on principles of engineering excellence; its reputation founded upon the work of legendary engineers, names which include Fritz Nallinger, Josef Müller and Rudolph Uhlenhaut. However, there is another name – one to whom every motorist ought perhaps to say a silent prayer of thanks – that of Béla Viktor Karl Barényi, engineer, inventor, known to some as the lifesaver. Over a lengthy career, primarily at Mercedes-Benz, his innovations led to more than 2500 patents, some of which have gone on to save countless thousands of lives.

Born in Hirtenberg near Vienna in March 1907 to one of Austria’s wealthiest families, Béla Barényi grew up amid the dawn of the motor car. Automobiles were a part of his life from an early age, his family owning an Austro-Daimler, which he is said to have adored. But fate and geopolitics would change his life dramatically, the combination of the Great War (in which his father was killed) and the ensuing depression which saw his family’s fortune dwindle, meant he was forced to Continue reading “Der Lebensretter”

15 shades of GIMS (Part 2)

Part two of Lukas von Rantzau’s ‘virtual Geneva’ review considers the more rarefied air amid the luxury marques. 

Bentley

Bentley’s CEO Adrian Hallmark welcomes us to a walk around the Crewe flagship of flagship showrooms. With the former Top & Fifth Gear presenter, Vicki Butler Henderson firmly by his side the conversation flows rather pleasantly. Eloquence, we are reminded, is a more important precondition for career success in Britain than in other European countries.

We are not quite finished thinking these thoughts, when the presentation turns to the coach-built Bentley Bacalar and its similarly overstyled designer, Stefan Sielaff. If one were to conduct a study on the varieties of German accents, GIMS wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

In the post-Motor Show Age, charismatic CEOs will Continue reading “15 shades of GIMS (Part 2)”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Three)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, charting the decline of GM and Lutz’s decade-long struggle to rescue it.

2000 Chevrolet Malibu. (c) Edmunds

Even before officially starting work at GM on 1st September 2001, Lutz had the opportunity to preview GM’s forthcoming models. He attended the company’s August board meeting and met Wayne Cherry, GM’s Vice-President of Design, at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance event the same month. Cherry shared with him photos of models in different stages of development and Lutz was horrified by what he saw. 

Amazingly, Cherry admitted to feeling the same and explained that, despite his nominal position, he was subordinate to the Vehicle Line Executives (VLEs), who oversaw every aspect of each new model’s development. Their explicit priority was to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Three)”

15 shades of GIMS (Part 1)

Welcoming a new contributor to DTW; Editor/Director of Transport Museum, Lukas von Rantzau, who opens his account with an acerbic two-part overview of ‘virtual Geneva’.

All images (c) GIMS

When the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) was cancelled only four days before its scheduled opening, some predicted this to be yet another nail in the coffin of the Motor Show per se. While visitors and exhibitors have been equally disappointed by the most recent iterations of the once glamourous celebrations of the automotive industry, the neutral ground of Geneva remained something of a last stronghold for a dying concept. Founded on Swiss neutrality, blessed with the presence of the largest variety of car manufacturers, it was supposed to be the one go-to-show in Europe this year. Alas, it was not to be at all.

More so than the Force Majeure cited in this year’s cancellation statement however, the limitless broadcasting possibilities of the internet have chipped away at the Motor Show’s raison d’être. Meeting at an agreed date and place, gathering all journalists in the same venue and holding world premieres back to back was a pragmatic way to Continue reading “15 shades of GIMS (Part 1)”

A Question Of Space

The Art of the garage. From the BBC.

(c) Jonathan Rudd via BBC

Time nor tide waiteth for no man, so the saying goes. One example of this being the BBC. Initiated in 1922 with only a handful of board members, one being First World War pilot Cecil Lewis whose book Sagittarius Rising is an exemplary account of the war in the air. As readable as it is terrifying, it’s a (then) young mans story told amidst horrendous circumstances. I digress.

Once upon a time the BBC was referred to as Auntie Beeb, for the corporation inspired warmth with the added sense of being impartial yet caring. And gave us Morecombe & Wise. But time and the internet has had huge implications on the Beeb’s persona and some of that friendliness has been lost. Trying not to drown in recent political, environmental and medical travails however, my eyes spied something of relevance: Garages.

The BBC website hosts a weekly themed photographic gallery – usually an excuse to Continue reading “A Question Of Space”

Farce Majeure

History repeats, first as tragedy, then as farce. 

(c) motorauthority

In a week where the massed ranks of the world’s motor business and the press pack who report upon them were to have crammed themselves into three preview days at Geneva’s Palexpo, they have instead been required to Continue reading “Farce Majeure”

Roll of Honour

Not all motor crashes end badly. How the R129 Mercedes-Benz SL was tested to destruction and passed with honours.

(c) Car Magazine

In a recent piece on the R129 generation Mercedes-Benz SL, reference was made to a dramatic incident that occurred at the car’s launch event at the Estoril racing circuit on the Portuguese Riviera. Car Magazine’s Ian Fraser was present at the launch and the following is taken from his account, published in the August 1989 edition of the magazine.

When Fraser arrived at the Estoril circuit, there was little evidence of the dramatic incident that had taken place earlier, apart from some tell-tale gouges in the surface of the tarmac. The Mercedes-Benz 500SL involved in the incident had been hidden from public view in a pit lock-up garage. The two journalists who were driver and passenger in the car had retreated to the bar for a stiff drink to calm their shredded nerves, the driver crying uncontrollably for a couple of hours. Continue reading “Roll of Honour”

Maranello Model Mystery

An interest in automotive design history can result in a fair bit of detective work, and occasionally, a surprise ending.

Ferrari 412i. (c) autoevolution

For three years, all the money in the world wouldn’t buy you a brand new Ferrari Gran Turismo. It may appear almost impossible to imagine from today’s perspective, but Maranello’s premier car maker wasn’t always the money printing machine it is nowadays, which would historically entail the odd glitch and hiccup in terms of production planning.

It was for this reason that certain models would outstay their welcome on a somewhat regular basis. But not offering a mainstay product for several years appeared very odd indeed, even before Ferrari evolved from being the maker of enthusiast’s cars to the status of luxury goods purveyors.

From 1989, when production of the long-serving 412i four-seater model finally ceased, until 1992, the year the 456 GT successor was unveiled, anyone looking for a Ferrari that could accommodate not just driver plus wife/mistress, but also the dog and/or kids, would need to go for the unloved Mondial. If this kind of customer was hellbent on a V12 engine under the bonnet, he’d have to Continue reading “Maranello Model Mystery”

The Persian Bodyswappers

Novels such as ‘Vice Versa’ and ‘Freaky Friday’ have inspired a long list of films about body swapping, but in the rare cases the automobile industry has resorted to the practice, it hasn’t exactly resulted in any award-winning performances.

(c) Pedal.ir/Flickr/Gomotors.net/Pakwheels.com

Since the Ayatollahs assumed power, Iran’s relationship with Western nations has been complicated. This has not stopped the country from developing a thriving automobile industry however – after oil and gas it is the third in economic importance – and to achieve licensing deals with a number of major car manufacturers such as Peugeot, Citroën, Renault, Nissan, KIA, Chevrolet and Cadillac. In some cases, this has lead to results that can only be described as bizarre. Continue reading “The Persian Bodyswappers”

All Together, All Alone : Car of the Year 2020

Geneva has been cancelled, but in some respects at least, the show goes on. There is after all, a car of the year to be decided. Robertas Parazitas reports, from the comfort of home. 

image: radical-mag.com

Surreal is a word both over and mis-used, but it could apply to the 2020 European Car of the Year ceremony, delivered in the usual room in Palexpo, but with the rest of the exhibition complex near deserted, with dismantling and demobilisation already underway even before the first official press day. This time there’s no free fizz and media camaraderie, but by the grace of YouTube, the show goes on.

I’m delivering this from my desk at home, 1500km from Geneva, owing to the vigorous spread of “Novel Coronavirus Covid-19“. Dare one say it is a lot more ‘novel’ than some of the seven shortlisted contenders. Which are, let us Continue reading “All Together, All Alone : Car of the Year 2020”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Two)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, which charts the decline of General Motors and Lutz’s decade-long struggle to rescue it.

(c) consumer guide auto

In an effort to understand better what gave the Japanese manufacturers such an edge in terms of quality and reliability, GM established a joint-venture with Toyota in 1984, the quaintly named New United Motorcar Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Two)”

Always Crashing in the Same Car

“Deep assignments run through all our lives. There are no coincidences.”

J.G. Ballard’s Crashed Cars exhibition, 1970. Photo (c) Wesley/Keystone/Getty Images

The car crash is the most dramatic event we are likely to experience in our entire lives apart from our own deaths.” J.G. Ballard

As any automotive marketer will be at pains to remind you, there is nothing sexy about safety, because as we’re repeatedly told, the customer simply doesn’t want to know. This being so, it’s relatively unsurprising that few carmakers have made their fortune or reputation by reminding buyers of the mortal risks they run every time they Continue reading “Always Crashing in the Same Car”

Got The Car? Get The Yacht

Captain, set sail for Lucrative Waters.

All images : (c) media.lexus.co.uk

Once Toyota had fixed their new sales horizon firmly upon the United States, there were bound to be some noses put out of joint. More tellingly, there were plenty of takers. Thirty years ago, the LS400 won over the hearts of wealthy Americans along with those seeking a more quality feel to what was otherwise being offered. The recipe was surprisingly simple. High-end engineering, longevity and product quality, be nice to customers at service or repair time. Ford and GM must have been on vacation.

Gaining that foothold in a predominantly stateside motoring landscape, with the Europeans snapping at the ankles, Lexus were refreshingly bold. Sales rattled up, announcing a sea change to the perceived automotive aristocracy. And that pitch continues today with ever more resonance: the vehicles have changed but not the philosophy. 

Well, not quite, because while Lexus see themselves as purveyors of quality, luxurious transport these days, they no longer confine themselves to the tarmac roads. Anyone with the means can park their delightful Garnet Red LS, with added kiriko glass embellishments, at the golf course, gun club or shopping mall. But surely better to Continue reading “Got The Car? Get The Yacht”

Such A Small Love

A Minor Matter. First-hand experience of Issi’s magnum opus. 

(c) The author

For reasons which were for the most part, monetary in nature, I have found myself being the final owner of a number of cars which have entered my care. This is not a particularly comfortable realisation, and might lead the casual observer to a misapprehension that I have not been the most careful of keepers, a matter I would take issue with. In truth a good many of these vehicles were far from their first flush of youth by the time they entered my sphere of influence and try as I might, I fought an often losing battle to Continue reading “Such A Small Love”

A Geneva Gaffe?

The ninetieth rendition of the Geneva Motor Show, billed as Europe’s largest, is almost upon us. It seems barely five minutes since the last one.

(c) gims.swiss.

Several manufacturers have chosen not to play this time. Bats and balls safely stored away. Lamborghini are preferring to chose more bespoke events to launch models. The PSA combine, which these days includes nearly ever other car on the road it seems, are staying home with the fire turned up to the third bar. JLR are most definitely not leaving Blighty either, an odd decision for when new Def’ner is almost ready to Continue reading “A Geneva Gaffe?”

Ritorno al Futuro

At long last, Pininfarina has a new Chief Creative Officer.

Kevin Rice. (c) autodesignmagazine

The last ten months must have been a rather tumultuous period for those working at Pininfarina’s headquarters in Cambiano. First there were rumours of a fierce conflict with erstwhile loyal customer, Ferrari, over the design of Automobili Pininfarina’s Battista EV hyper car, in the wake of its unveiling at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.  This was shortly followed by a facelift of Battista’s front end.

Much of the blame for these costly, distracting shenanigans was put at the feet of Pininfarina chief designer, Carlo Bonzanigo, who wasn’t seen or heard in public for months, until his resignation ‘for personal reasons‘ was unceremoniously announced in September. Since then, the post of chief designer has remained vacant. Not anymore however, as Kevin Rice has just been announced as Bonzanigo’s successor. Continue reading “Ritorno al Futuro”

Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part two)

We return to the conclusion of DTW’s exploration of the 1959 Mini and its enigmatic creator.

ADO15 prototypes in 1958, with Issigonis’ preferred frontal treatment. (c) imcdb.org

Leaving to one side matters of the ADO15 programme’s viability, or the product planning skills of BMC’s chief executive, there is also the matter of the subsequent account given by Issigonis when he informed Sir Leonard in no uncertain terms that “he was mad” to build the car on the basis of the prototype he had demonstrated. However, given that Alec, (like most people) was somewhat in awe of BMC’s kingpin, it’s difficult to take him entirely at his word. Furthermore, Issigonis’ secrecy, single-mindedness and formidable ego would likely ensure nobody else got their hands on his baby. He is also believed to have doggedly refused to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part two)”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part One)

An industry insider’s account of the decline of General Motors and his struggle to revive its fortunes.

(c) iveho.com

In the last quarter of the 20th Century, General Motors went from being one of the most highly respected and successful US corporations to the butt of stand-up comedians’ jokes. In his 2011 book, Car Guys vs Bean Counters, Robert A (Bob) Lutz charts the decline of the once great company and describes his decade-long struggle to rescue it. What follows is a digest of that book, supplemented with additional information where appropriate.

Bob Lutz would, I’m sure, proudly describe himself as a Car Guy to his core. In this, his second book, Lutz describes his efforts to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part One)”

Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)

The Mini is one of the most ingenious, most innovative cars ever, but is also one of the most maddeningly inconsistent. In this two-part essay, DTW considers both icon and author.

(c) pinterest

The problem with icons is that often their venerated position can act as a shield against scrutiny, an insuperable barrier to unsentimental analysis or critique. How after all does one approach one of the most significant motorcars of all time objectively, without skirting the boundaries of iconoclasm?

Because to look at the Mini through one narrow prism is to Continue reading “Dawn of the Iconoclast (Part one)”

A View To The East

Casting a covetous gaze, Miles across the ocean. Japan-wards.

(c) autoexpert

Global warming, derisory interest rates, carbon footprints and theatrical leaders – our concerns may skirt those borders but we choose to look beyond them. Further to our recent gaze Eastwards, I have been looking into just what is available from our Japanese cousins, purely for research purposes, you understand.

Several different car club members of my acquaintance have purchased a car from Japan. A Mercedes C180 whose specification resembles nothing to what one buys in Europe, rust-free Lancias, and MX-5s bought on the basis of originality. That’s a pretty wide range of types and pricing. But all were purchased here in the UK, meaning that someone else did the importation and paperwork.  

Should you wish to Continue reading “A View To The East”

Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)

Daniel O’Callaghan concludes his running report on his partner’s 2014 MINI with an assessment of its dynamics, its ergonomics and his conclusions.

Image : The Author

The driving experience and refinement is where the third-generation new MINI really distinguishes itself positively from its fun but flawed predecessors. It has a nice turn of speed, 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than the manual, and a claimed (but untested!) top speed of 130mph.

The torque-converter automatic gearbox is very smooth, kicks down readily and has a manual override if wanted, which we’ve never used. This gearbox has now been superseded by a dual-clutch unit. The three-cylinder 1.5 litre turbocharged engine pulls strongly and has a nice, gruff engine note. Continue reading “Our MINI Adventure (Part Two)”

Rétromobile 2020: A Culinary Perspective

In France, the automobile and Dionysian delights are far from mutually exclusive. 

All images : The author

At your typical German vintage car show, the olfactory pecking order is both clear and dependable. Right after the smells of rubber and petrol – and well before leather or car polish, for example – comes the vapour of Bockwurst getting stale. Towards evening time, beer fart becomes another rather dominant olfactory sensation to the visitor of, say, Techno Classica in Essen.

The vintage car shows of my home country are not exactly hotbeds of sophistication. Some are worse than others in that regard, but one definitely doesn’t attend Techno Classica or Bremen Classic Motorshow for the dry biscuits, rubbery Bretzeln and beer served in plastic cups. An undivertible focus on the automotive exhibits is thus required, if one wants to Continue reading “Rétromobile 2020: A Culinary Perspective”