Light Fantastic (Part One)

At the fourth attempt, Audi finally produced a luxury saloon to challenge the Mercedes-Benz S-Class head-on.

Image: honestjohn.co.uk

Audi is now a fully-fledged member of the German premium triumvirate. Together with rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it dominates the European market for such vehicles. However, its entry to this exclusive club was neither quick nor straightforward and its early attempts to join were met largely with indifference by the market.

The first car that Audi attempted to pitch above its traditional E-segment ceiling was the 1979 200 saloon. This was based on the 1976 C2-generation Audi 100 and was little more than a plushly trimmed version of that car, distinguished externally by slightly chintzy looking quad rectangular headlamps lifted from the US version of the 100(1) and a thick perimeter rubbing strip that ran along the lower bodysides and continued around the front and rear of the car above the bumpers. Continue reading “Light Fantastic (Part One)”

Bloody Massive Warehouse

Not only size matters

Image: Motor Trader

Our new office lies in my city’s industrial heartland. Next door makes false limbs. Two doors up they sell oil, and at the end, hand tools are made, or at least stored. The environs are full of engineering workshops of vastly different sizes. The circulating aroma is a heady blend of refuse (the incinerator is close by) and something akin to leaving the iron on too long. But there are glimpses of beauty. The River Don, in all its khaki splendour now attracts fish for both human and feathered creatures to enjoy; witnessing the electric blue flash of a Kingfisher gladdens this author’s heart.

Fear not dear reader, DTW is not about to Continue reading “Bloody Massive Warehouse”

Both Sides Now

The 1996 Alfa Romeo Nuvola would underline in eloquent fashion the power of the past.

Image: autodesignmagazine

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on DTW in December 2017.

History has always weighed heavily upon the Biscione of Milan. Few carmakers with such an illustrious past could remain immune to its siren call, although throughout the 1970s and ’80s its centro stile denizens seemed bent on ignoring it; bracing modernity being more the Alfa Romeo design leitmotif throughout this period.

During the pre-Millennial decade, Alfa Romeo’s stylistic output had become a combination of the sublime and, if not entirely ridiculous, at least unconvincing. On one hand we had the ageing, but still elegant Pininfarina-designed 164, the equally sharp-looking (in-house) 145, and the striking 916-series GTV / Spider, while on the other, there was the 146 and 155 saloons – more akin to the stark product design inflected Ermanno Cressoni era.

But change was in the offing, and with a new generation of Alfa Romeo saloons nearing completion, these designs would break with the angular aesthetic which had for so long been Arese’s visual calling card. Under Design Director, Walter de Silva’s purview, the Biscione would increasingly Continue reading “Both Sides Now”

Montain Green-Veined Whites – Everywhere.

Here we’re back in Dublin for a look at some vintage Toyota goodness.

All images: The author

The last items of my personal possessions to linger in my childhood home are a stack of Autocar & Motor/Autocar magazines, from the period 1989 to about 1997, the last year of childhood and the early years of adulthood. This is a period when one is getting use to how the world is, to what constitutes normal. For most of human history it was likely that you could Continue reading “Montain Green-Veined Whites – Everywhere.”

Me L’ero Persa

Bella Macchina

Image: classiccarcatalogue

How could such a design exist without my prior knowledge? I almost felt anger, frustration certainly; emotions usually tethered to unassuming teenagers surfaced upon first setting eyes on such a machine. To exist and spin its intricate web so enigmatically, after so many years we can only dream as to what may have been had circumstances played out more beneficially. 

At a time when the United States unveiled the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser and Britain, the Riley Pathfinder, the industry as a whole was in the midst of unleashing a plethora of postwar conformity. Alfa Romeo were undisputed Formula One kings but financial matters began to alter their gaze. The Biscione needed to Continue reading “Me L’ero Persa”

Running With Scissors [Part Three]

Questions of style.

Image: carsot

There are certain irrefutable qualities which help determine successful product design. Of these, appearance, while arguably the least important in absolute terms, is the most easily perceived, and clearly the most subjective, but it goes without saying that in the absence of a robust visual appeal, even the best wrought product will struggle. The Allegro’s appearance forms an essential component of its subsequent notoriety, but like most aspects of the car’s iconography, this aspect of ADO67 remains subject to varying levels of hysteria.

The Allegro’s style garnered little overt press criticism[1] at its introduction. This would not have been unusual behaviour from the home team – but in this instance the UK press may have been a little over-keen to Continue reading “Running With Scissors [Part Three]”

Rodeo-ite Roundup

The versatile Renault 4 platform lent itself to many variations on a theme.

Over the years, la Régie Renault has followed Citroën’s lead on a few occasions in terms of car development; the Méhari for instance was quickly followed by the 4 (and later 6) Rodéo. As with the Méhari(1), quite a few similar variants based around the same theme would be offered, of which a selection will be presented here.

To be fair, Renault had introduced the Renault 4 Plein Air exactly one day before Citroën unveiled its Méhari, but it proved to be not very popular and was discontinued in 1970 after only about 600 were sold; by that time Citroën had already shifted almost 20,000 Méharis. Renault realised it would have to change its plan if it was to Continue reading “Rodeo-ite Roundup”

Missing the Marque: Opel / Vauxhall Antara

GM Europe misses an open goal…again.

Image: autoevolution.com

Which vehicle would you regard as the first modern crossover or, to use the American term, Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV)? Automotive historians on both sides of the Atlantic might cite either the 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho or 1979 AMC Eagle, but the former was front-wheel-drive only(1) while the latter, although highly capable with its permanent 4WD, was simply a jacked-up AMC Concord. I think the title should rest with the 1994 Toyota RAV4, a purpose-designed model with front or four-wheel-drive. Honda followed up a year later with the CR-V(2) while Land-Rover entered the fray in 1997 with the Freelander.

European automakers were slow to Continue reading “Missing the Marque: Opel / Vauxhall Antara”

Hillhead

A quarry day out.

Armour to increase grip on loose surfaces along with handily avoiding punctures. These tyres cost a kings ransom to replace. All images: The author.

Set in the beautiful but often hidden, industrial Peak District, Hillhead, Buxton is host to the UK’s largest quarry, construction and recycling exhibition. With watchwords of sustainability, environmental technology and safety, alongside carbon and other kinds of footprints littering this hole in the ground, your correspondent became Charlie to Willy Wonka’s industrial might. Life sized Tonka toys on display or in operation. Tyres larger than an Escalade. Excavator buckets bigger than a house. Everything for sale.

In a world gone mad with rising prices, three words to strike joy into a Yorkshireman’s heart. A free show. Nothing of course is ever free but as I had no need to shell out for parking, entry fees or indeed lunch, the DTW coffers[1] remain intact. Journeying but an hour from home, the traffic flotilla increased as we got closer to the show ground, with around 8,500 like-minded folk in train; the event lasts three days. Marshalled into parking, one could wait for a white, yet dusty 22-plate Transit to van you closer to events but I preferred to Continue reading “Hillhead”

Fresh Mint

Has Genesis shown us a fresh face in emission-free motoring?

Image: Genesis.com

Editor’s note: This piece first appeared on DTW in April 2019.

Since the advent of the automobile, cars and cities have co-existed in an uneasy truce, but as concerns over deteriorating air quality gain traction across the developed world, it seems increasingly likely that our urban streets are simply not big enough for both. So the mid-term future for the combustion-engined motor car, in an urban context at least, looks bleak. However, like most behavioural shifts, this seems unlikely to occur overnight, but already – as previously reported both here and elsewhere – urban legislatures are taking matters upon themselves by limiting or banning outright, vehicles which fail to Continue reading “Fresh Mint”

Savannah Postcard (7)

Would you agree with me that the building could very well have been built so as to serve as a backdrop for this exact car?

Ford LTD Crown Victoria

There is little that remains to be said about the Ford LTD Crown Victoria. It’s biggest claim to fame, as I see it, is that it used Ford’s Panther platform which was new in 1981 and soldiered on until Ford was unable to Continue reading “Savannah Postcard (7)”

Running With Scissors [Part Two]

Several shadows loomed large over Allegro: ADO16, its benighted imperator and a man called Paradise.  

Image: aronline

Sequels are often a tricky balancing act. Alter the recipe and the audience may reject it, reprise the original too closely and they are just as likely to feel short-changed.

The Allegro’s Sixties predecessor would prove a tough act to follow. Despite a lack of meaningful ongoing development, the ADO16 series remained Britain’s best-seller throughout the decade. With such lasting success, the pressure was on BLMC’s product planners and engineers to build upon this with ADO67, the 1100’s belated replacement.

Logically, when scoping the successor to a top-selling product it is sound practice to Continue reading “Running With Scissors [Part Two]”

And Then There Were Three

Three may be a crowd, but what a mosh pit…

Genesis X. Image: carsguide

On seeing the three Genesis concept line up, my initial reaction stopped me in my tracks. I saw modernity, striking lines, a confidence so lacking in many a competitor, but also a lineage, a history – well almost. Regardless of the brand’s short lived UK presence, centred upon ‘That London’, these potential people movers embody for this author, on screen at least, desirability above all else.

In Genesis parlance, “A beauty of innovation visualised by design” is a bold enough statement I choose not to argue with. Not wanting to Continue reading “And Then There Were Three”

Double Chevron Curiosities

Another instalment of lesser known Citroën varieties, one of which was confiscated by the authorities on drug charges.

Visa Lotus Rally car, 1982

Guy Verrier, in charge of Citroën’s competition acitivities, initiated project Genesis in 1981. Its objective was creating a specially prepared Visa to compete in the Group B Rallying category(1) starting with the 1985 season. Ultimately, the programme would lead to the four-wheel driven Visa Mille Pistes which achieved some respectable results during its career. On the way to the Mille Pistes however, several other proposals – some of them 4WD but others FWD or RWD – would be created and in some cases tested in actual rallying competition.

Perhaps the most unusual one was the Visa Lotus which, as the name implies, was a mixture of Paris and Hethel, with a dash of Billancourt: outwardly it was quite obviously inspired by the Renault 5 Turbo and also shared its mid-engined RWD configuration. Continue reading “Double Chevron Curiosities”

Swedish Angle Iron (Part Three)

Concluding the story of the Volvo 700/900 series.

Image: media.volvocars.com

With global sales of over 1.2 million, the Volvo 700 series was a highly successful car for its maker. However, by the late 1980s, it was beginning to look quite dated. This was a particular issue for the saloon, with its always controversial rear window / D-pillar treatment, which was a throwback to an early 1980s American styling trope. Sales began to suffer, especially in the UK and German markets.

Replacing the 700 series with an all-new model wasn’t an option, however. Volvo was committed to a switch to front- (or four-) wheel-drive for all its model ranges and to this end was undertaking its largest ever investment programme, called Project Galaxy. Launched in 1978, Project Galaxy continued for over a decade and cost a total of 15 billion Swedish Kroner (US $2.5 billion), making it the most expensive Swedish private-sector investment to that date. The first fruit of the project was the 1986 400 series, followed by the 1991 800 series.

With the company so heavily committed elsewhere, but still needing to extract further life from the 700 series, it was decided to Continue reading “Swedish Angle Iron (Part Three)”

1969 Austin Maxi: Road Test

Something old, something new! Archibald Vicar, Dip. Eng. tries the latest sensation from BLMC, the Austin Maxi.

Image: veikl

From “Today’s Driver” February 1969. Photography by Patrick Lamperay. Due to liquid spillage to the original negative source, stock photos have been used.
Editor’s note: This transcript of the Archie Vicar original first appeared on Driven to Write in November 2013. 

There it was, an Austin Maxi, Leyland’s latest motor car. And we were in Dublin, Eire, to test it. It was eight o’clock in the morning and photographer, Lamperey, and I were at British Leyland’s small factory in the middle of what was once the Empire’s second city. While I ought to have been taking in the generalities of the Maxi’s technicalities I was more cognisant of my rather delicate physical state, that of a rotten hangover.

Said hangover was largely as a result of my failed attempt to anaesthetise myself during the festival of mal de mer that was the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. The duty-free Guinness was at least remarkably cheap so the experience was merely disagreeable and not costly. I was also able to Continue reading “1969 Austin Maxi: Road Test”

The Wild Man of Kvasiny

Not abominable – in fact really rather good. In praise of Yeti.

Image: maxabout.com

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Driven to Write on 23 August 2019.

The product planner’s art has never been a particularly easy one, even less so when one is dealing with a brand portfolio the size and scope of that of the VW Group. Nevertheless, during the immediate post-millennium at least, the individual business units contained within the sprawling Grouping were allowed to Continue reading “The Wild Man of Kvasiny”

I’ll Give Anything to See a Berger’s Clouded Yellow…!

A is for Omega.

All images: The author

The other day when digging back into my Car collection I stumbled or fell or happened across an article by LJK Setright dealing with the Opel Omega B. In that article he chanted the praises of its predecessor, the Omega A. And this is the car we have for you today, photographed in Hamburg in July, as the thermometer managed to Continue reading “I’ll Give Anything to See a Berger’s Clouded Yellow…!”

Running With Scissors [Part One]

Allegories of corporate failure.

Launch imagery was… atmospheric… Photo: gr8autophoto

Urban-planned existences lived out under high-voltage power lines, the yellowed lighting of bleak subterranean underpasses. Dehydrated food – just add water, George and Mildred on the Radio Rentals telly. Modest hopes, unfulfilled ambitions and quiet despair, punctuated by mass unemployment, the three-day week and grinding industrial disputes – not to mention the spectre of the IRA’s terrestrial bombing campaign and the rise of the National Front. Beneath the Spacehoppers and dayglo fabrics, Seventies Britain appeared to be unravelling. The Sixties ‘white heat of industry’ had sputtered amid a sense of nihilism and hopelessness.

Should one, for the purposes of shorthand or metaphor wish to Continue reading “Running With Scissors [Part One]”

Abominably Refined

In search of snow monsters…

Image: Skoda Storyboard

Lately, more light has been cast regarding the development of that still beloved creature, Škoda’s Yeti. Before the K-named cars were but a twinkle in Stefani’s eye, the Roomster’s replacement came in for plenty of conducted and rather surprising concepts with which we unravel, today.

Against the common manufacturer’s grain, Škoda allowed themselves a frisson of comedy. In the early years of the millennium, Thomas Ingenlath (now of Polestar, nee-Volvo and at the time, Škoda), donned mountain boots and coat, taking to the Palexpo stage to Continue reading “Abominably Refined”

Country File

Recalling two conceptually close but geographically distant relatives of the Volkswagen Type 181.

Image: shannons.com.au

Country Buggy, Australia

In early 1964, Volkswagen Australasia Pty Ltd (or simply VWA) began development of a vehicle primarily intended for use by the Australian army that at the same time might also be offered to civilians. In order to be considered for military use in the demanding Australian environment, the vehicle had to be simple, tough, easy to service and have amphibious capability. The German managing director of VWA, Rudi Herzmer, already had previous experience in this field as he had been part of the engineering team that developed the Kübelwagen for the German army in World War 2. Initially christened Kurierwagen, a few prototypes were ready to undergo testing in 1965. Continue reading “Country File”

Swedish Angle Iron (Part Two)

Continuing the story of the Volvo 700/900 series.

Image: carinpicture

In the Spring of 1984, two years after the launch of the 760 GLE saloon, Volvo introduced its less luxurious sibling, the 740. Deliveries started later in the year, first in North America, then in Europe. The estate versions of both the 740 and 760 were launched in February 1985. They went on sale in North America in the summer, then in Europe in the autumn of that year. The market had by this time become used to the saloon’s angular looks, so the estate, shorn of the saloon’s controversial rear window, was generally regarded as rather smart, even handsome.

Oddly, for a company so concerned with safety, anti-lock braking was only available on the top of the range 760 GLE saloon, and not at all on the estate. Volvo’s explanation for this was that there was no room to Continue reading “Swedish Angle Iron (Part Two)”

Irresistible Bliss

Italy calls. Giorgetto answers.

Image: Museo Alfa Romeo

During the Spring of 1960, Giorgetto Giugiaro was faced with something of a dilemma. Having accepted an offer to replace the recently departed Franco Scaglione as lead designer at Stile Bertone, the 22 year old artist and designer[1], formerly part of FIAT’s centro stile team was just settling into his new position when he received notification of his compulsory national service. Giugiaro had recently completed the designs for the Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint and Gordon Keeble GT, Bertone’s studios were abuzz with activity and with a new commission for a compact Alfa Romeo GT, the young designer wanted to get on with work, not play soldiers.

Of course this troubling state of affairs also presented Nuccio Bertone with something of a headache. Obtaining Giugiaro’s services had proven something of a coup, but since military regulations seemingly forbade conscripts to Continue reading “Irresistible Bliss”

Why the Mountain Argus Hovers in the Mist

Getting a handle on Peugeot’s 1007.

2004-2009 Peugeot 1007

“Peugeot plants seeds for the future,” wrote Car magazine in November 2002. The accompanying CAD image they used shared its colour with today’s hard copy. The CAD model in Car’s article posed as a concept car and bore the name Sesame. The vehicle appeared on sale two years later bearing a striking resemblance to the thing billed as a concept car. What Peugeot did was to Continue reading “Why the Mountain Argus Hovers in the Mist”

That it Should Have Come to This: European Car of The Year 2023

With mere hours to go before the announcement of the winner in Brussels, the author finds little to cheer or celebrate in the 2023 ECoTY shortlist.

Image: Irish Times

2022 was a hard year. Pestilence was far from conquered when war added to the world’s tribulations. An energy crisis followed and, for almost every human endeavour, raw materials shortages and supply chain problems. Europe’s automotive industry was particularly hard-hit, with the continent’s carmaking conglomerates pleading to governments and the EU to Continue reading “That it Should Have Come to This: European Car of The Year 2023”

Najjar’s Butterfly Develops Seventy Years Late

Longer, lower – wilder.

Image: oldcarbrochures

During the early years of the 1950’s, the American auto industry was blossoming into previously unknown avenues, at times ambitious and in certain cases, downright arresting. Springtime 1954 saw head of Lincoln’s pre-production studio, John Najjar sketch five concept cars, only one making it past the papyrus stage. Known internally as Mandalay, the sketch pupated into the XM Turnpike Cruiser, “a four passenger cross country car for tomorrow.XM denoting eXperimental Mercury.

Outré perhaps, even in the jet age, the design caught the attention of future Ford whiz-kid Francis ‘Jack’ Reith. Pushing the top brass for backing, an internal competition set the partnership of Najjar and Elwood Engel over that of Gene Bordinat and Don DeLaRossa. Both teams presented full size clay models (around 18 feet in length) knowing full well only one would be green lighted. Reith took an instant shine to the Najjar design, justifying tweaks and alterations, gaining approval that autumn. Continue reading “Najjar’s Butterfly Develops Seventy Years Late”

Oakland, We Have a Problem.

Getting off the ground… it’s not always easy.

Image: Desert Motors

Like many of his contemporaries during the 1950s, Milt Brown, a young car-mad engineer living in California, admired the European high-end sportscars he frequently encountered in this affluent region of America, those that hailed from Italy and England in particular being the object of his interest and desire. At times, Brown harboured thoughts of creating a sportscar himself but past efforts by others had demonstrated that this was no easy feat to pull off succesfully.

A few domestic entrepreneurs had tried their hand at creating an American Gran Turismo but the likes of Cunningham and Nash-Healey, for example, were hampered by respectively a very high price-tag and insufficient performance. The exotic European imports mostly did not suffer from lack of speed but, except perhaps for Jaguar’s XKE, they were only available to those with very fat bank accounts. Moreover, obtaining adequate service and maintenance for these frequently fickle exotics could be a problem as well.

Brown was certainly not the first, and would also not be the last to Continue reading “Oakland, We Have a Problem.”

Benchmarks – The Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina

Is this really the progenitor of the modern sports saloon?

Image: classics/honestjohn

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Driven to Write in March 2015 as part of the Benchmarks theme.

In the early 1960s, the average British driver on an average income would have ended up with a leaf-sprung wheezer, comfortable maybe, but hard-pushed cruising above 70 on expanding and unrestricted motorways, a handful in a panic stop and an entertainment-free and potentially scare-laden prospect on corners.

If you had a bit more to spend, and fancied something with sporting pretentions, then pretentions were certainly on offer with bits of real wood, a bigger carburettor, a rev counter and oil pressure gauge, fog and driving lamps and maybe Continue reading “Benchmarks – The Alfa Romeo Giulia Berlina”

Swedish Angle Iron (Part One)

Remembering the controversially styled Volvo 700 series.

Image: media.volvocars.com

The Volvo 100/200 series was an extraordinarily successful and enduring automobile. Careful nurturing and progressive development of the model enabled it to remain in production for over twenty-seven years, during which time it built up a loyal band of owners for whom no other car offered the same combination of practicality, durability and passive safety. Over its lifetime, a total of 4,125,325 cars found buyers, making it by far the most successful model in Volvo’s history.

By the late 1970’s however, Volvo realised that the architecture underpinning the 200 series was becoming somewhat outdated. Although launched in 1974, the 200 series was not an all-new model but a heavy makeover of the 1966 100 series. It was still more than acceptable for buyers who appreciated Volvo’s traditional strengths, but the company had ambitions to Continue reading “Swedish Angle Iron (Part One)”

That Was a Real False Ringlet Flying Past

Toyota make a bewildering number of cars, they really do. This one lives in Dublin, Ireland where I saw it in the summer of 2022.

2013 Toyota Corolla Axio, Dublin, Ireland (July 2022)

Rather foolishly I did not get as far as recording the nameplate. The only evidence I have for this sighting are these three grainy photographs, of the sort used by crazed believers in pseudo-science to prove the existence of the Loch Ness animal. In order to find out what this was I had to first Continue reading “That Was a Real False Ringlet Flying Past”

Another Mystery Car

This is a small item that hinges (as it were) on perceived quality. I am sure many of DTW’s readers will identify the vehicle immediately.

I am not so sure many of them would have expected the exterior design to be hiding messy interior detailing as is shown in this screen shot. My own car has the same design of hinge by the way. That’s justifiable because it’s an affordable car built to a reasonable standard. This one costs rather more…

Mystery Car: The Reveal

Time to reveal the answer to our mystery car puzzle.

Mystery car
Sorry for the low resolution. The light blue car in the foreground is the one we are interested in.

For those of you in doubt, the identity of the mystery car can now be revealed. All you have to do is to take your mouse, stylus or finger to this button and Continue reading “Mystery Car: The Reveal”

Welcome to the Machine – Part Eight

No ifs, no buttresses.

Daimler-S prototype. Image: drive-my

A number of attempts were made to reimagine the styling of Jaguar’s XJ-S without Malcolm Sayer’s unloved rear sail fairings. Some would prove more successful than others, but none would solve the issue.

In one of the more curious ironies of the XJ-S’ long career, the decade which bookended 1979 to 1989 would witness both the model line’s nadir and its heyday. This unprecedented zero to hero transformation would surprise industry analysts, rival carmakers and not least of all, Jaguar themselves, but its sales resurgence would make two aspects clear.

Firstly, that Jaguar’s initial instinct to Continue reading “Welcome to the Machine – Part Eight”

Eight Out Of Ten Cats Prefer…

Another glamour pussy from Flint. 

Image: Buick via CNBC

Feeding time, Tiddles! The latest in a long line of Buick concepts was recently released from its cage, demanding our attention. But before we don overt costumes and gyrate to Mr. Lloyd Webber’s stage show rhythms, some background to the Flint plan. 

While stateside Buicks have been utility based now for some time, their Chinese equivalents offer a selection of body styles. Once motor journalists got wind that GM had trademarked the Electra name and began applying it to concepts out East, assumptions were made that a new saloon was imminent. The best laid plans of mice and…

Like most manufacturers, by 2030, Buick’s entire range will be electrified and named Electra followed by an alphanumeric. But no saloons are planned – all will be utilities of differing sizes. Which begs the question. Why Continue reading “Eight Out Of Ten Cats Prefer…”

A year (and a half) with the MG ZT 190

A much delayed one-year owner’s report

All images: The author

As I write this, it is 5 months to the day since I promised DTW’s esteemed editor a one-year report on living with what was, at purchase, an unusually pristine and little-used example of MG’s last-chance, last-shout, last-hurrah (and doomed from the start) sports saloon. My attempt at winning the ‘most delayed DTW article’ award aside, how has 18 months with the ZT190 been?

To start with, the ZT has been, by a comfortable margin, the unluckiest car I have ever known: In the short time I have owned it, it has been crashed into by other drivers twice (at low speeds but still necessitating costly repairs), has lost two tyres to a fight with a sharp piece of metal and just plain lost one of the brackets holding the exhaust in place. To its credit, not even the last of these could be said to be the car’s fault (a replacement exhaust fitted before purchase had not been screwed on properly) and only the tyre puncture left me stranded. Continue reading “A year (and a half) with the MG ZT 190”

Automotive Paper Trail

Collecting car brochures can be a serious business.

Image: YouTube

For those with a hobby that is somewhat outside the mainstream, it can be difficult to give a satisfying reply to questions from new acquaintances when the nature of one’s objects of affection is revealed. Collecting art or antiques seldom requires an explanation, but other forms of collecting often do; the collecting of car brochures and related materials such as press kits – which would be your author’s poison – is a good example.

“So what do you do with all those brochures? Do you ever read them after you’ve filed them?” What to say? Yes, I do regularly Continue reading “Automotive Paper Trail”

An Open and Shut Case

A short history of BMC and its successor companies’ trouble with doors.

Austin Manx…sorry, Maxi. Image: evoke-classics.com

Car doors: we take them for granted. They are there simply to provide a means of entry to and egress from a cabin sealed off from the elements, to ensure the comfort and security of the vehicle’s occupants. In engineering terms, they are mainly pretty simple: two hinges at the front, a locating pin and lock at the rear, and a mechanism to move the glass up and down either manually or electrically(1). So far, so straightforward.

However, doors are of far greater importance than might be implied by their mere functionality. They define the side profile of the car and are integral to its overall design. While cars are routinely given facelifts to freshen up their appearance after a few years on the market, such facelifts are typically confined to the front (and, occasionally, rear) end. The centre section of the bodyshell usually(2) remains untouched. Hence, it is very important to Continue reading “An Open and Shut Case”

2022 Review

There goes another. 

Image: auto.it

In a year when the term, permacrisis became embedded in common discourse –both as adjective and state of mind – those who believed the onset of 2022 would herald a return to relative stability and (relative) certainty were in for quite the disappointment. So as we bid farewell to another year, it’s time to cast back over some highlights of the Driven to Write year, one where reading the runes made as little sense as reading the (automotive) news, where forecasters flung their crystal balls aside in exasperation and most of us simply resigned ourselves to Continue reading “2022 Review”

Toy Story – Two

Ride on time.

Falgas F1-themed ride. Image: globalamusementsandplay

The horse and horseless carriage are more connected than we give either credit for. In this second episode of the car’s youthful attraction, we have to step back to the US state of Missouri, 1930. One James Otto Hahs decided to create for his children a most wonderful Christmas gift, a mechanical horse ride. Inventive as he was, Hahs obtained some mohair and a cow’s tail from the local abattoir which he then fashioned over a hand-carved wooden buck, all connected to a mechanism within.

The Hahs children loved their horse ride, as did their friends. Realising its sales potential, he then set to work making a more production friendly and therefore commercially viable version with one key aspect in place – paying for the ride. Carving wood and using real hides was expensive and heavy. Hahs found a way of casting aluminium and using lighter materials for dressing. Teaming up with a distributor earned him 5% of the profits but it would take a score more years for the ride’s true impact – that of the shopping centre.

1950s America had plenty to spend, and the strategic placing of colourful rides became an important tool in encouraging folks to Continue reading “Toy Story – Two”

“Tell Me About the Two-Tailed Pasha, Oh Sweet!”

It’s always something of a momentous occasion to chance upon an older Bentley. Here’s one.

1990 Bentley Turbo R – the first proper bearer of the winged badge, said Motor Trend.

Behind the back of the back lanes of Baggotonia there can still be found a few small workshops and business such as the garage that is tending this Bentley. Now that I come to think of, I can’t Continue reading ““Tell Me About the Two-Tailed Pasha, Oh Sweet!””

Fiendish Festive Teasers: Answers

Time to reveal the answers:

Image: speedace.info

1. An odd number. Why does the nominally 1.1-litre Rover K-series engine have an actual capacity of 1,119cc?

a) It was based on a three cylinder K-series developed for a Mini replacement, with an engine capacity of 848cc.

b) To Continue reading “Fiendish Festive Teasers: Answers”

Toy Story – One

“Those are some Hot Wheels!”

Image: Motor Trend

But when it comes to shifting vast quantities of cars, requiring little human intervention, there’s a company at the very top of the tree. Toyota and VW can claim to make ten million vehicles per year, Mattel’s Hot Wheels shift about the same per week. The name is purportedly to have emanated from the lips of Mattel founder and inventor, Elliot Handler upon observing a prototype whizz by. Considering models from rivals, Matchbox, to be unsatisfactory, Handler wanted not just to Continue reading “Toy Story – One”

Mystery Car

Today we will set a modest challenge for you. It might not even be a challenge as inevitably someone will provide the right answer in seconds.

Mystery car
Sorry for the low resolution. The light blue car in the foreground is the one we are interested in.

Still, here we go. I had a heck of a job even finding an example of the car to photograph during my three weeks in Dublin this August. Eventually, I saw just two of them, a metallic grey one in Dublin 4 and the one partially shown above, seen in Wexford. Unfortuately for me, at the time I saw the first one I could not Continue reading “Mystery Car”

Fiendish Festive Teasers

Test both your automotive knowledge and lateral thinking skills here:

Image: speedace.info

1. An odd number. Why does the nominally 1.1-litre Rover K-series engine have an actual capacity of 1,119cc?

a) It was based on a three cylinder K-series developed for a Mini replacement, with an engine capacity of 848cc.

b) To avoid a speed restriction imposed on sub-1100cc cars using Swiss and Austrian autobahns.

c) Because of an incorrect annotation on a production drawing.

d) To Continue reading “Fiendish Festive Teasers”

Season’s Greetings

Yule find us on the piste today.

Image: formtrends

I know what you’re thinking. This is a somewhat tenuous looking festive scene, more of an excuse for a gratuitous Fitz and Van illustration if honest. Still, there is sufficient quantities of the white stuff on display here to provide ample seasonal cover, so if you’re prepared to Continue reading “Season’s Greetings”