Vélizy’s 1994 riposte to Renault was no masterpiece, but perhaps the best of a bad bunch. It’s not saying much, is it?
It’s relatively difficult to imagine now, but in the early 1990’s, the future was looking decidedly MPV-shaped. Particularly amongst European manufacturers, who were falling over themselves to get something vaguely monospace to market, following the creative and commercial success of the innovative Renault Espace. The MPV concept appeared to especially chime with the French motorist, who was generally characterised by preferring pragmatism over pretension. In 1991, Renault once again set the pace with the Scenic concept, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Art Blakeslee’s Citroën studio presented Xanae. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of the Blind the One-Eyed Man Is King – 1994 Citroën Xanae”
Does the Golf have ten engines because VW believes it leads to increased sales (twice as many as the next most popular car)? Or does such huge sales volume mean VW can pamper its clientele like no clientele has been pampered before?
To answer this I needed to crunch some numbers. Statistical research of the most basic kind is very dull indeed. It does reveal some interesting things in return however. Such work is the reverse of golf, I think, which sport some say is fun to do but which is clearly boring to look at. In that spirit (“ah, look, the tassles are flying”) I decided to get stuck in and see what it takes to be in the top ten, engineswise. There was no point in hand-waving. Some maths had to be involved.
The opposing polarities of the double chevron are unlikely ever to be satisfactorily reconciled, but was this any way to go about trying?
There are those content to view Citroën’s role as being that of the pre-Traction Avant era: fundamentally a purveyor of pragmatic, rather ordinary cars. The earthbound Goddess of course (temporarily) put paid to such notions and forms the boundary for an opposing camp who view Citroën’s descent from those Olympian heights as being somewhere between tragedy and outright crime. So if the car we’re gathered here to commemorate today falls into the former category, how should we view it, twenty years later? Continue reading “Opposite of Avant – 1997 Citroën Xsara”
In 1964 my Dad made one of his visits to the USA and brought back with him ‘The Latest And The Greatest’ by Chuck Berry. At least that’s how I remember it but, as any Berry anorak will tell you, that album was a compilation record put together by Pye in the UK. So did they export it only for it to be returned, did my Dad become such a Berry fan on his visit that he bought it locally as soon as he came back, or is it all just a false-memory? You never can tell. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Cat Takes The Bird”
Our correspondent in Dublin, Mick, has kindly sent us a blurry close-up which might be a candidate for a mystery car competition.
What is remarkable is that among our readers are people with the skill to recognise what this car is without having seen one in the metal for what could be years. This says something about how much visual consistency is applied at all scales of a car compared to a building, for example.
I would guess that if you pick 1% of the surface of a car and 1% of the surface of a building then the cars would be easier to identify. Another interesting point is whether a car from today is more or less easily identified from a 1% sample compared to one from, say, 1960. That’s a researchable question!
At Easter, DTW came across a Tesla Model X parked in a field in France.
From the start I was always very open-minded about Tesla, and generally feel that attitude has been vindicated. If, as I’ve been informed on various websites, it is just a scam, designed to relieve hard-working Americans of their ‘tax dollars’, it turns out to have been a remarkably long-running one that has cost Elon Musk an awful lot of money. Yes, it’s a pity that the Model S appeared rather mainstream and didn’t make more of its difference, but it looks reasonably imposing , well-proportioned and well-detailed, with a bit more presence to my eyes than a Jaguar XF. From reports, there are some things that, as a start-up manufacturer, they have overlooked and I am not sure how much I’d enjoy a car whose controls are so dominated by a huge touchscreen, bearing in mind the various glitches I’ve encountered with iPads and their like. Nevertheless, as viewed from afar, Tesla’s progress has been hugely impressive. The sight of two Model S’s plugged in to the Superchargers at Folkestone Eurotunnel the other week was testimony to the owner’s confidence that they were up to a long-range trip. But then I saw a Model X close up. Continue reading “An Evergreen Novelty Resurfaces, Yet Again”
This week has seen the unveiling of Mercedes’ latest concept car, previewing the styling direction to be taken by the next generation of A-Class-series Mercedes models. Concept A was previewed earlier in the year with a conceptual sculpture and a toe-curling lecture by the blessed Gorden (sic) on how his signature design theme was evolving. Since then, he’s completed a glossy coffee table book in conjunction with Conde Nast, called “Sensual Purity: Gorden Wagener on Design” and is rumoured to be working with Eyna on a concept album to accompany it. Continue reading “Crease Is The Word – Vision A Unmasked”
While I poked around Suzuki’s Japanese homepage I found the Hustler interior which is worth another look.
That is the power of orange. However, the iPhone white interior is good too. I notice they offer two orange shades. That’s an interesting and odd thing to do. Why not a cool shade? Or black or boring grey?
As promised… a closer look at the new Suzuki Ignis.
These photos are very grey and very dank and really only serve to prove I did go to take a look at an Ignis with its wrapping still on. Curiously, all of the cars at the dealer had darkened rear windows so I could not see the interior properly.
Genesis have shown this concept car at the New York Auto show.
Some of the images are too smooth and bland to be anything but CGI so perhaps the car will look more substantial in the metal.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about articulation and ways designers show depth and substance on a form. Mercedes used to insist on big radii to express the thickness of the metal (you can’t bend thick sheet steel as tightly as thin stuff). Flushness suggest flimsiness as do sharp edges. I notice architects often bevel concrete and wood to make it look and be robust. The headlamps, tail-lamps and brightwork seem to lack this material thickness, especially the flush lamps. Continue reading “Genesis GV80 Design Notes”
Curiosity overcame me so I went to a Suzuki dealer, writes Richard Herriott (who has hijacked this post).
On the way I saw the Mk 1. First, this is a public service as the Mk1 is not so well photographed. Second, it’s a chance to share my current morbid fascination. Until recently I hadn’t noticed the Mk1 Ignis (2000-2006). It shares similar themes with the Mark 2 which means Suzuki liked the idea and were planning an evolutionary approach. There is slightly raised third window at the back and the distinctive groove running around the middle of the lower body. The headlamps are not so distinctive as on the follow-up car. Why do I like this car? Continue reading “Tomorrow We Do Ignis”
Aside from the car collection, the Louwman Museum has an extensive collection of ‘Automobile Art’. But are car paintings ever any good?
Ever since the first photograph was produced, the ‘Death of Painting’ has been trumpeted but painting still carries on. One reason of course is that the camera only catches the momentary image – it doesn’t always explain what is happening or why it is happening. Equally in today’s Photoshop world, it’s reasonable to forecast the ‘Death of Photography’. Certainly it is partly dead – most of today’s more glossy motoring magazines would find it hard to produce a cover, or even a main article image, in an unadorned state. Continue reading “Louwman Museum IV : Capturing The Moment”
Searching for your inner hero? This 1996 Peugeot concept had the key.
The same year the Pininfarina bodied 406 Coupe was first shown, Peugeot also displayed this, the Toscana concept. What the Sochaux-based motor company’s intentions were remains unclear, but whatever the intent, it cannot have been all that serious. With a bespoke body marrying key styling elements of the 406 saloon – nose treatment, rear lamps, body swage line – to a distinctly sci-fi canopy section, the Toscana was as frivolous a concept could be while still loosely based on a production model. If anything, it puts one in mind of some of GM’s Motorama concepts from the 1950’s – or indeed Adam West’s Batmobile. Continue reading “To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana”
If only there had been more time to study this one: a 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville.
With some impatient passengers in the car, I promised this was the last time I’d stop and photograph something interesting that day. Patience was wearing thin. By the time I got back after two minutes and five snaps a brawl had already broken out. I sensed a small battle by photo four.
Previewed at the New York motor show this week, Toyota’s FT-4X Concept.
Maybe it’s the colour. Perhaps it’s the rugged ‘go-anywhere’ appearance. Or it could be the many useful features and imaginative solutions littered throughout the vehicle – (some more fanciful than practical) – but not only do I find the FT-4X charming, but also it strikes me that this or something along similar lines is really what JLR should be offering instead of that insipid looking new Discovery they’re marketing to customers now. Continue reading “Toyota’s (little) Discovery”
Hailed by Pininfarina as a celebration, Nautilus marked the final act in an unravelling relationship dating back to 1951.
The same year as 406 Coupe’s began leaving Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese facility, the carrozzeria displayed Nautilus at Geneva; a concept for a full-size four-door luxury saloon, said by the coachbuilder to be “an exciting stylistic exploration of the high class sporty saloon, created as a tribute to our partnership with Peugeot.” But behind the scenes, this already souring relationship was entering its death throes. With Murat Günak appointed as Peugeot styling director in 1994, one of his first acts was to enlarge the styling team to bolster both numbers and influence; the aim being to further eclipse the Italian coachbuilder and favour the in-house team. Continue reading “Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus”
This is a vignette more than a postcard. I did see these two in Schleswig, on the way west.
We stopped in a supermarket and I thought to stock up on provisions: some JJ Darboven coffee and German-market Aperol which is 15% rather than 11%. In the carpark I noticed an early series 1 Peugeot 406 and a Series 2.
A Suave Swansong. The 406 Coupé embodied values which had seen a Franco-Italian marriage survive and prosper for a generation. Sadly, it wasn’t to last.
At some unspecified point during the 1990’s something quite seismic took hold within Automobiles Peugeot. A profound cultural shift which saw a gradual jettisoning of not only the marque’s highly regarded engineering principles but also its reputation for dignified styling. Their long-standing association with carrozzeria Pininfarina was unravelling. PSA President, Jacques Calvet, believed to have been irked by the attention Patrick le Quément’s Billancourt studios were receiving, pressed Peugeot Style Centre chief, Gérard Welter for more visual excitement; a move which saw Welter poach rising star Murat Günak from Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Continue reading “Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé”
We look at two proud Frenchmen who were really quite similar and so very different.
There are certain notorious rivalries in motoring history. Many of them were sporting ones, in the Senna-Prost mould, which sometimes went beyond good sense and risked the lives of those involved. But there are also rivalries that at first seemed less visceral, but that had equally grim endings. One such is that between André Citroën and Louis Renault. Neither were self-made men from humble backgrounds in the vein of Herbert Austin or, even more so, William Morris. Both had comfortable upbringings, André’s possibly less stable due to the suicide of his father. Born within a year of each other, they actually first met as young children attending the same Lyceé. André studied engineering at the prestigious École Polytechnique whereas Louis was self-taught, building his first car before the end of the 19th Century and becoming part of the early history of motoring after forming a company with two of his brothers. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark”
As luck would have it, I was out and about with no camera for most of the day.
Among the unicorns I spotted: a Hyundai XG350 and a Renault Safrane. It’s the Hyundai I regret missing the most. I haven’t seen one since 2006 and that one was a neighbourhood car. In all I have seen two, one of them several times. This time I could do not do more than Continue reading “Don’t Forget Your Camera”
A chance sighting prompts something approaching a defence.
Since we created Driven to Write three years ago, I have undergone something of a re-education about cars and particularly when it comes to their design. Even though we might actually only rub shoulders about once a year, I often feel as though I have a virtual Herriott at my ear, urging me to look at that innocuous looking tin box over there with fresh eyes. Going about my business yesterday, I happened past a stationary 2016 Micra. Not a car to which I’d normally give more than the most cursory of glances, but given some of the damning responses to the example featured earlier in the week, I felt I ought to give it a second glance. Continue reading “Speaking Micra”
Alfa Giulia is available to own and steeling to give Gaydon’s finest a lash of its tongue. We look at how it’s faring against its sternest rival.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to spend a day around FCA towers? If only to truly discern the degree of reality evinced by the likes of Big Reidland et al. Because even the big fella must now realise the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are conclusively beyond reach. Last year, luxury sector leader, Mercedes-Benz shipped 176,038 C-Class badged vehicles to waiting customers across the European market alone. What hope for Alfa Romeo’s ambitions against those kind of numbers? Continue reading “Theme: Rivals – The Serpent and the Cat”
In 1999, when retro was all the rage, BMW’s Z8 roadster did its best to exploit the sense of nostalgia that prevailed at the dawn of the new millennium. Surprisingly though, its sales brochure proves more creative.
Made in Germany, this is the 2018 Buick Regal saloon.
We know this car already. It will be a curiosity in years to come, the Buick made by PSA but designed by GM. Of most immediate interest is that it will be sold as hatchback (is this Buick’s first since the Skyhawk?) and as an estate, the first Buick long-roof since the Roadmaster of 1995. Given that large, agile station wagons have something of a cult appeal (brown, with manual transmission is best) this is a good move. The question is whether the buyers of Volvo, Mercedes and Subaru estates want a Buick estate?
As promised here is a small snippet on a special edition you may have missed.
Quite coincidentally, Jimi Beckwith at Autocropley has been musing about the subject. Dreamcar.dk reported the momentous news of the Nissan Micra Elle as follows (in Nov 2012): “Nissan and the world’s most popular fashion magazine, Elle, have joined forces to develop a special edition of the popular city car, the Micra. The goal for both partners is to
Honda, Honda, Honda. The 2016 Honda Civic has only started to appear on the streets of my ‘hood. Goodness.
This is not that, if that is a clean-surfaced, reserved and neat hatchback. This is a vehicle inspired by science-fiction films and military chic. And maybe Lamborghini.
If you were weaned on received wisdom, as I was, Alfa Romeo was making a come back any minute now and Honda had pensioners propping up the customer base. As of 2005´s model, the eighth generation, Honda showed they did not want coffin dodgers in their showrooms. I liked that car – it did mad with a bit of restraint and had a Citroen-loony interior. Thereafter Honda has kept on pouring more and more Red Bull and LSD in the designers’ cappucinos so that they would Continue reading “Beyond Butch”
I’ve always liked the Mercedes 500K and 540K cars despite the fact that they seem tainted, through no real fault of their own, by association with high-ranking Nazis. In 2 seater form, it’s one of those cars of inordinate length that accommodates just a couple of people. Were all cars like this, our roads would have become gridlocked many years ago, but there’s a harmless decadence to it in my eyes. The Louman’s 500K is one of those fairytale barn-find stories. A Spezial model, one of just 25, it was first purchased in the UK and spent 30 years stored behind a butcher’s shop in Walsall. Discovered and auctioned late in the 1980s, it was beautifully restored in Germany and was a prizewinner at Pebble Beach in 1994. Continue reading “Louwman Museum III : The Pebble Beach Boys”
One wonders about these colour consultancies. They have no special access to the future yet are willing to guess (or is it propose) what it might look like. Presumably the consultancy has a lot of software to link economic and social indicators to colours. But it works the other way too. Colour affects our mood, acting to provoke a moment of “wow” or what Kant would call a pure aesthetic moment. So as well as the social mood influencing what colours we want perhaps colours can be selected to affect the social mood or even just to find people who are not in tune with it. Thus, the colour consultancies could push a colour and be pro-active in their predictions. One can review the data from now to say what might happen. One can also head off those trends by taking action. The time is right for yellow, I say. Let’s not give in to boring old trends but shape the future and ask for yellow cars.
This diagram is a timeline of the Suzuki Cultus, Ignis and Swift.
The period of confusion is 2000 to 2008 when the Ignis appeared and was sold as the Swift, in Japan, replacing the Cultus. Suzuki produced two generations of Ignis: 2000 to 2004 and 2003 to 2008. In Europe the Swift appeared in 1988, the same as the car known in Japan as the Cultus. I don’t think we got the first generation. In Europe the Ignis and Swift overlapped from 2004 to 2008. Continue reading “As Promised”
Quite a few brands have cottoned on to “personalisation” after Mini: Fiat, Opel and Citroen/DS, for example. Now it’s Audi’s turn.
Agent Eóin spotted this Audi Q2 in the wild in Cork city, Ireland.
It’s not a bad idea, giving customers some more possibilities in how their joy and pride is finished. What is the paint, wheel and upholstery choice but a chance for the producer to find customers with money to match their preferences? Mini make a fine penny with their mirror trim and Union Flag lids. Opel offer the delightful Adam with a range of roof colours as do DS. And the DS also goes in for body strips and mirror trim. What these models have in common is that that they are not particularly expensive and come from mainstream manufacturers. Audi is the odd man out. Continue reading “Snap-on quality and self-adhesive Style”
For years now, Lexus has stared enviously at Mercedes-Benz, hoping to emulate its success. Tired of second fiddle, is ‘the gentleman’ flinging his values on the fire?
Last year, a former Browns Lane insider described the advent of the 1989 Lexus LS 400 to me as being “chilling in every respect”. One can be equally sure that in Munich, Ingolstadt and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, the intake of breath was no less sharp and the expletives no less lurid. That Lexus subsequently failed to achieve global cut-through over the intervening decades remains a matter for historians and academics to pick over, because the auguries at the time suggested Toyota would annihilate the opposition. Continue reading “Sexing-Up Lexus”
I mentioned recently that futile pushing movement a driver makes in their seat as they try to coax an underpowered car to gain, or even maintain, speed. What they really need is a magic switch.
When I was a kid, many Jaguars had a small switch, set high up on the dashboard, between the steering wheel and the driver’s door. Depending on the model, this might either be labelled ‘Overdrive’ (in my memory a transparent toggle) or an ‘Intermediate Speed Hold’ (a black toggle). As a child I didn’t differentiate, or even question what the difference was, it just seemed like a magic go-faster button that the drivers could flick at will. Continue reading “BOOOOOST!”
Simon gets his piece in before the others. Result!
The motor industry is, by nature, driven by rivalry. But unlike the more creative sort of rivalry, where two or more points of view are competing energetically for the same goal, much of our industry’s rivalry is in trying to persuade customers to choose their product over another one that is virtually just the same. It’s all rather dull, just football teams trying to prevent each other from scoring. Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – An Introduction”
We end this month’s theme with some good news for those of you mourning the loss of Simca.
We live in a world where brand has an enhanced currency. Familiar names are forever cropping up in unfamiliar places. Clothing manufacturer’s names appear on cars. Car manufacturer’s names appear on clothes. But, in terms of sheer scale, the continuation of the Simca brand takes some beating, being applied to 270 acres of lush, jungle covered island. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Retirement Home”
As this month’s theme draws to a close, we give you something to ponder…
In 1963, Oscar Montabone was recalled from Chrysler-controlled Simca to manage Fiat’s Automobile Technical Office. His primary task was to develop Project 124, a putative 1100 replacement in direct competition with Dante Giacosa’s Project 123, which was not so much a defined car as a series of studies with various front engine/front wheel drive and rear engine/rear drive configurations based around a 1157cc three cylinder opposed-valve ohc engine. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Vibrations That Lived On”
The Simca 1300/1500 had a tough act to follow and stepped elegantly into the Aronde’s shoes yet, despite good looks and strong sales, it never really escaped the rather ‘grey’ reputation bestowed by its casting as the universal anonymous saloon in Jacques Tati’s 1967 film “Playtime”.
The casual seeker after knowledge might too easily conclude that the mid-size Simca’s sole contribution to the advancement of the automotive art was the availability, in the estate cars only, of a Formica-faced boot floor which could double as a picnic table. The reality is that it was a well-balanced product, both in engineering and styling, for which Simca adopted ‘best’ practice, rather than joining the technological revolution which was sweeping through the car industry in the late fifties and early sixties, which saw even conservative businesses like BMC, GM, and Rootes trying to rewrite the engineering rule-book. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”
It’s happening now: the Mk2 Mondeo is slipping away.
Ever since I showed a Mitsubishi Galant (last version) I have wanted a good, clear photo of a Mk2 Mondeo for comparison. They’ve been thin on the ground and most have been hatchbacks or estates. This can be interpretted as the fact they are being taken out of circulation. This banal photo shows a rarity in the making. The last ones are reaching 160,000 miles and ending their planned service life. Continue reading “Public Service”
Faux by four or pre-emptive strike? We cast a (largely) unprejudiced eye over the Rancho.
The 1973 oil embargo had a profound effect upon all auto manufacturers, but the low volume specialists were most exposed. Mécanique Aviation Traction, better known as Matra were no exception and in the aftermath of the fuel crisis, found it necessary to broaden their automotive base. Best known for sports cars, Matra had introduced the Simca powered Bagheera in 1976 and were now seeking a second Chrysler-Europe-derived model programme to boost revenues in addition to providing a buffer against further geo-political shocks. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Hangin’ Tuff – 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho”
Lamb wool rugs, coverlets, wraps. I’d forgotten about the 2003 Continental’s rugs until now.
The 2003 Bentley Continental Flying Spur came with lambs wool rugs if one ordered the “Premium Specification”. This detail deserves a little reflection.
To purchase a Conti Flying Spur one needed more than two hundred thousand dollars. One rug could not really have cost more than a few hundred dollars. The very nice Norwegian Roros rugs cost about 150 euros. Adding a Bentley crest adds another twenty euros. I would have thought the rugs would have been standard too. However, the rugs are also a bit extraneous. First, I can’t imagine a lot of passengers would need the rugs except perhaps small napping children. The grown adults won’t Continue reading “May The Song I Sing Be Seamless As Its Way Weaves From the World’s Beginning To Our Day”
A title chosen more for a cheap laugh than accuracy, the big Simcas actually did OK for a while and, as usual, their manufacturers ensured they wrung the most from them.
I have three particular memories of the big Simcas. First was in France in 1961, driving across the Camargue with my parents. On a long stretch the bonnet of a light blue Ariane coming in the other direction flipped fully open, completely blinding the driver who swerved into the side of the road, thankfully without injury to anything except his pride. Seeing that at a tender age has always made me careful about securing my bonnet and, at the time, it also made me wonder unfairly if Simcas were that well made. The second memory is from twenty years ago when I spent Christmas in Alsace at a place called the Hotel Beaulieu. When I arrived at night, parked in front sitting in the entrance floodlights surrounded by snow was a Santa red and white Simca Vedette Beaulieu. Continue reading “Theme : Simca – Making The Turkey Last”
Very reluctantly I have decided to try to make sense of Simca’s slow fade from the market.
I have our monthly theme to thank – my interest has been piqued. Up to now Simca has meant little and I didn’t plan to write a lot on the topic. Simon Kearne insisted slightly too.
My findings are partly just a bit of editorial reworking of the mess that is already publicly available at Wikipedia. My contribution is to put in some bits about Chrysler and Peugeot. And also to make a DTW exclusive “infographic”. It is barely legible, frankly. The main use has been to explain (to me at least) the chronology of Chrysler/Talbot/Simca’s model terminations. Continue reading “Theme: Simca – And All This Is Folly To the World.”