Ashtrays: 1972 Maserati Indy 4700

It´s nice to think that Giovanni Michelotti spent some of his creative time trying to think of a suitable ashtray for this car.

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He might have sat at his desk with samples from suppliers or he might have drawn some simple sketches and asked the artisans to run up a few prototypes. At some point Adolfo Orsi, the firm´s president, could have been invited to review the shortlist of possibilities. Perhaps he sat in the car and had a smoke of a now-forgotten Italian brand while assessing the merits of each design. Since Citroen had owned the firm since 1968, the very board of directors of that firm could have been asked for an opinion about a feature that seems to sit at the very heart of the car.

In the case of this 1972 car, the luxuriantly reflective chrome lozenge sits regally atop the tunnel, nearer to the driver than the lever actuating the five-speed manual gearbox. Notice the small sphere. That helps one Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1972 Maserati Indy 4700”

Caution, Live Cargo!

Last month, in Vlissingen in the Netherlands, DTW came across a pram museum. They’ve got wheels, so we’ll write about them.

Oudekinderwagens, Vlissingen
Oudekinderwagens, Vlissingen

When I was a student designer, there was a clear difference between the straight from A level bunch, like me, and the ‘mature students’, some of whom were maybe just 3 or 4 years older than me, but who had seen a bit of life. That ‘bit of life’ might have been bumming around the world, or it might have been all that grown-up stuff like parenting, and those people could interest themselves in a project like designing a pram or a baby buggy in a way that I never could. By that, I don’t mean that my ambitions were only to draw ludicrously impractical sports cars – I was quite interested in doing something a bit more worthwhile, especially since, with the Arab Israeli Conflict, the activities of the Baader-Meinhof Group and, as the final nail, Showaddawaddy being near the top of the charts, it was clear that society as we knew it was coming to an end. No, my problem was that I could never really appreciate the difficulty in piloting a clumsy wheeled device with a screaming passenger through a crowded supermarket, since, although I’d read both On The Road and Nausea, I lacked any actual experience of the real problems of life. Continue reading “Caution, Live Cargo!”

Ashtrays: 2008 Daihatsu Materia

This must be a DTW exclusive. Daihatsu offered a small-car with a tank-like demeanour.

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I thought I´d like being inside this car but I didn´t. The high window-line and the cliff of dashboard coupled with the hard seats lent the car an altogether unwelcoming feeling. A casual net search showed only grey interiors.  It is spacious and according to Car was quite alright if taken as an urban runabout and not a device for spirited driving. Thanks, Car, for conceding that much. They said this: “This is one of the Materia’s ace cards. It really is roomy in there, with plenty of room for four adults to Continue reading “Ashtrays: 2008 Daihatsu Materia”

Looking back to the future

By now we ought to be seeing the replacement for the Cadillac Cien but there was nothing to replace. The Cien broke cover in 2002 as a showcar penned by Simon Cox. 

2002 Cadillac Cien concept car: source
2002 Cadillac Cien concept car: source

It´s fourteen years later and Cadillac are still trying to find their feet. The Cien concept car might have been a help in getting some credibility to stick to Cadillac´s tarnished brand. Looking at the photos of the car´s exterior, there´s not much about the car that strikes ones as unfeasible. Perhaps it doesn´t conform to the strict details of pedestrian safety. The finish has the hallmarks of something one could manufacture. Lamps are normally a giveway and these look believable. Maybe the absence of mirrors is a telling trope, a standard of the concept car business. The interior is rather good-looking and lacks any obvious placeholders. Many concept cars fall down here: as the years go by one sees more clearly signs of hastily filled-in details and materials that have been worked by hand. Not the drum-tight Cien. In fact, one would not be surprised to see exactly that cars interior today, perhaps with a more prominent central screen. Not much else raises suspicions that Cadillac´s real business involved kite-flying. What did Cox say? “I wouldn´t have done this car…if there wasn´t a chance it would be built.” He must be a rather disappointed chap who along with Gerry “I´m Gerry McGovern” McGovern must have the greatest number of plausible designs left on the cutting room floor. Both work for large American firms which must mean something. Continue reading “Looking back to the future”

Theme- Colour: red micropost

We’ve been talking a lot about red. Here’s a 2016 Mondeo in Hilti red. It’s a quite terrible photo …

2016 Ford Mondeo (or is it the 2007 car?)
2016 Ford Mondeo (or is it the 2007 car?)

….but if you had a chance to photograph a unicorn you’d take a shot, regardless if the sun was behind the unicorn and Lord Lucan was slightly in the way.

Objects In The Rear View Mirror

The first car I bought with my own money was a Mark 1 Ford Focus. Having decided that a Focus was going to be the car for me, I spent months scouring local dealerships, newspaper classifieds and Autotrader for the right car. Eventually a dealer called me with a candidate.

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There are many Foci in the world, but this one was mine.
And there it was: a sky blue three door in 2.0 Zetec trim. Despite spending five years gracing the surface of this planet whilst being blasted with wind, rain, road salt and solar radiation, the Focus looked as if it had rolled out of the Saarlouis factory just last week. An inspection and test drive confirmed my impressions: it was a peach. Continue reading “Objects In The Rear View Mirror”

The state of the newstand

Before the internet captured every conceivable niche related to cars, a trip to a German railway station offered a chance to find out about cars from far-flung regions. If you thirsted after wisdom about the US market, there usually could be found a magazine or two in the Presse shop.

Lots of magazines in a German railway station.
Lots of magazines in a German railway station.

As you might have noticed I’ve been auf achse in Germany for most of the month. During that time I’ve travelled by rail from Flensburg to Hamburg and on to Goslar in the Harz and then to Zittau on the Polish-Czech-German border via Dresden; and then I travelled from Schwedt on the Oder river to Bad Bellingen via Berlin and then from Bad Bellingen back to Flensburg via Mannheim and many, many other stations. What I noticed is that if you want to

Continue reading “The state of the newstand”

Some more Gestalt Theory: 2008 Chevrolet Cruze

The headlamps of this car never appealed to me. Gestalt theory explains why.

2008 Chevrolet Cruze: source
2008 Chevrolet Cruze: source

For a quick resume, Gestalt Theory is about how the mind is disposed to try to make sense of visual data. Your mind is inclined to fill in gaps to make whole outlines, and turn collections of individuals into groups and to pick exceptions from ordered arrays. The mind wants to sort out moving objects from a stable background. In short, it’s the equipment a mind would need to distinguish a moving thing in a complex background. Continue reading “Some more Gestalt Theory: 2008 Chevrolet Cruze”

1971 Lancia Flavia 2000 Pininfarina coupe

Lancia kept its models in production for a long time in the period before Fiat bought them. The Lancia Flavia coupe appeared in 1961 and stayed on sale with a name change until 1975. This is the first time I have ever seen one. Ever.

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As I am not au fait with the intricacies of the Flavia´s history, I can only show these and ask some questions. The Flavia name retired in 1971 according to the commonly accepted history of the car. The name change to 2000 signified a face-lift and a new, bigger engine, going from 1.8 to 2.0 litres. According to Wikipedia the revised “2000” received the 2.0 engine in 1971. This body work is the Series 2 version. So, why does it say “Lancia Flavia” and “2000” on the boot? I found a 1971 car for sale with the same badges.

A former colleague of mine had one of these and raved about the senselessly expensive refinements (dual metal screws? the rifle-bolt gearchange?). Seen up close, I am a bit disappointed. I don´t like the chrome running past the black triangle aft of the side glass. The black bit is there to Continue reading “1971 Lancia Flavia 2000 Pininfarina coupe”

Mind the gap!

Far from being the worst offspring of the late Sacco/Peter Pfeiffer era at Mercedes-Benz, the CL-coupé (C215) still exhibits a very poignant reminder of what went wrong at Untertürkheim during this particular period of time.

photo 1
The early noughties’ S-class coupé in all but name

Its proportions are actually very pleasing indeed (unlike those of its immediate predecessor), yet the CL is utterly let down by its detailing. Be it the spoiler lip at the rear, the sloppy bonnet sculpting, the a-pillar arrangement or the slightly awkward shoulder on the boot lid – lots of small wrongs help messing up what should, by all intents and purposes, be a fundamentally right design. Continue reading “Mind the gap!”

Theme : Colour – Big Red

Recently, a red Fiesta was added to the DTW fleet. Is Red a Marmite colour?

2010 Alfa Romeo Pininfarina 2uettottanta
Was any other colour even considered? 2010 Alfa Romeo Pininfarina 2uettottanta

No actually that’s a very murky brown. I mean of course that red is one of those colours loved by some, usually a red car’s owner, and hated by others, usually their fellow road users. Red lives at the hot end of the spectrum and is seen as the colour that stimulates – the aggressive colour. As such, the red sports car is, to many, a red rag to the bull.

At one time all Formula 1 cars were painted in the colours of the country of the entrant. Red had become the racing colour of Italy following the Peking to Paris race of 1907 but, with the disappearance of Lancia, Maserati, ATS, Serenissima, Tecno and others from the grids, it has become seen as the colour of Ferrari who, despite the use of British Racing Green by Jaguar and the short-lived Lotus Racing was, until Mercedes returned to Formula 1, the only manufacturer that stuck doggedly with its national colours following the advent of sponsorship. The actual red used deviated from Rosso Corsa for quite a while however, both because of the need to overcome the shortcomings of older TV sets that muted reds, and from the need to compromise with the branding of their main sponsors. Continue reading “Theme : Colour – Big Red”

DTW Summer Reissue: 2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review

After discussing the dead centre of the car market, we take a visit there: the Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic. [First published May 11, 2014]

2012 Ford Focus rear 1This is the third generation Focus that I have tried. The Mk1 is a landmark and indeed a benchmark for many. It casts a long shadow over its successors. The Mk2 added refinement at the expense of driver enjoyment. Compared to the Mk1, the successor felt like being in a fat suit. So, what is the Mk 3 like now I have finally gotten behind the wheel? The main impressions are described below. Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue: 2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review”

Theme: Colour – She wore lemon

Mimosa yellow must be one of the most distinctive paint names after whatever the heck it is Ferrari calls its red.

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Over the last few weeks I went in search of yellow cars and, for the sake of completeness I´ve thrown the Tesla into the pile.

Continue reading “Theme: Colour – She wore lemon”

DTW Summer Reissue: Unforgetting the 1981 Talbot Tagora

If you´ve ever wondered about this famously forgotten car, this is the place to find out why it has become a footnote in automotive history.

[First published July 16, 2014]

1981 Talbot Tagora
1981 Talbot Tagora

The Tagora doesn´t have much of an afterlife. It´s been out of production since 1983 and if anyone remembers it, they aren´t saying much about it. But what was the view of the car at the time of launch? Did it look like it was going to be the flop it turned out to be? I bought a copy of Autocar from 1981 to find out how this car was viewed by contemporary writers. Other magazines followed in the post. This (below) is how I digested the information for Wikipedia. Alas, it was removed shortly after it was published on the grounds that it was “not balanced”.  I later revised the text with more “balance”and it seems to have survived. Here is what I wrote first:

Continue reading “DTW Summer Reissue: Unforgetting the 1981 Talbot Tagora”

Resurrecting the Defender

While the story of the Defender’s potential rise from the grave continues to garner column inches, does it mask a more compelling drama?

The ultimate durable car? Image: Topspeed
The ultimate durable car? Image: Topspeed

Something of a minor storm has been taking place amid sections of the media over reports that industrialist, Jim Ratcliffe has been in talks with Jaguar Land Rover over purchasing the rights and tooling for the recently axed Defender model. The story which first appeared in The Times newspaper claims the chemicals boss intends to re-start production of the 68-year old model, with some suggesting a Caterham-style reinvention and modernisation programme under an alternative nameplate. This story was picked up with some seriousness by Autocar but has been refuted in robust terms by JLR – a spokesperson telling reporters; “There is no way this is happening, we’re not going to let anyone build our Defender.” Continue reading “Resurrecting the Defender”

Theme : Colour – Signature Colours

Most cars are some kind of grey today, a fact we have mourned often here at DTW. But every now and then, a manufacturer decides to market a model in what I call a ‘signature colour’ – one that is closely linked to a car model. Now this definition is somewhat fuzzy – and subjective, too. But as a hint, think of a colour the car was presented in on press photos, a colour that was only available for a single model, or a model / trim variant that was only available in a single colour. Rather than an in-depth essay, I’d like to present a small colourful gallery with some comments.

Greyscale

zz_01-05
Signature colours – white to black

This is ubiquitous now. But nevertheless, there are examples of colourless signature colours. Continue reading “Theme : Colour – Signature Colours”

1967-1972 Fiat 125

From 1967 to 1972 Fiat sold the 125 and, according to Wikipedia, it combined saloon car space with sports car performance.

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This formula could also be found in the 1966 BMW 1602/2002 and 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia. What might distinguish the 125 from these might be that it offered these characteristics in a cheaper package than Alfa or BMW. It certainly had more doors than the 2002 and it had more space than the Alfa Romeo.

Distinguishing it further is that fact it´s a great deal rarer now than its sports saloon cousins from Milan and Munich. This is the first one I can remember seeing in very many years, if I have indeed ever seen one at all. Continue reading “1967-1972 Fiat 125”

Point, Counterpoint II

By coincidence there parked side by side an example of Bruno Sacco’s era and that of Gorden Wagener.

Can you name the model?
Can you name the model?

To be fair, Sacco had nothing like the rules to follow that today’s designers do. To be fair, Wagener’s team have CAD and rapid prototyping to speed the iterations and so work through the options. Continue reading “Point, Counterpoint II”

A photo for Sunday: 1983 Volvo 240 GLE

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1983 Volvo 240 GLE

For a lengthier description of the 240 you can read this transcript of what looks like a period review written by Archie Vicar. We should know this off pat: launched in 1974 and retired in 1993; was based on and replaced the 140 series and outlived the supposed successor, the 700-series of 1982-1992; both are the work of Jan Wilsgaard and you would not know unless someone told you. He evidently subsumed his personality into the project and only Swedish values come through.  Let´s Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 1983 Volvo 240 GLE”

Not again?

We all know the “Alfa is back” narrative. Cadillac has a similar line in deja vu.

2016 Cadillac CT6: caranddriver.com
2016 Cadillac CT6: caranddriver.com

Automotive News ran a story which had such an eerie air of familiarity that I thought it was a summer reprint. As well as the Camaro and Corvette, the CT6 and XT5 will be made available in Europe, here and there. It’s yet another “Cadillac returns” story that doesn’t add up. Continue reading “Not again?”

Micropost: 1994-2000 Lancia Kappa SW

Given Lancia made only 9028 examples of the Kappa SW, I see them often enough.

1994-2000 Lancia 1994 Kappa SW, Guben, Germany.
1994-2000 Lancia Kappa SW, Guben, Germany.

Pininfarina did the design and construction and I expect charged Lancia more for this than Lancia made selling them. That makes them good value now.

You’d want an SW if a Kappa saloon appeared too common, if a BMW 5 too mainstream, an XM too complex and a Scorpio too ugly and an Omega too banal.

1970 Simca 1000

The fate of extinct marques is that fewer and fewer people care to cherish the name and burnish the heritage. It depends entirely on the interest in classics magazines, the numbers made, how far back in time since the marque died and the numbers of cars made whether the cars stay in the broader motoring mind.

1970 Simcy 1100
1970 Simca 1000: timeless classic or forgotten for a reason?

All of this is a preamble to the fact I know even less about Simca than you do and this one is the first I have seen in the metal since last year at the same place and event. Continue reading “1970 Simca 1000”

Polish snapshots

The differences between Poland and Germany take many forms.

FSO Polonez, Gubin, Poland.
FSO Polonez, Gubin, Poland.

Fighting in 1945 meant Guben (Germany) and Gubin (Poland) both experienced near total devastation. They stand on  the Niesse river that divides the two countries. Today Guben has a city centre and Gubin has some apartment blocks, a ruined church and a lot of trees. Essentially, the Poles didn’t rebuild. Among this lot I found a lovely FSO Polonez in what looks like late-model trim.  Continue reading “Polish snapshots”

Theme: Colour Micropost

We haven’t quite got around to exploring this so much.

Opel Agila
Opel Agila Njoy edition

In mitigation, I’ll present the interesting colour combination of the Opel Agila “Njoy” special edition. Critics of my Opel bias can roll their eyes if they wish. However, in keeping an eye out for bright, distinctive colours while roving around Germany it’s been Opels (Corsas, Merivas, Astras) that have been most likely to have characterful paint jobs. Continue reading “Theme: Colour Micropost”

Requiem for a 5-Series

Back in 2009, BMW introduced the 5-Series GT – a car few have felt much affection for, the poor thing. As BMW readies a new model for 2017, we pay tribute to BMW’s niche-bender by recounting the dolorous tale of one such car.

Image: Zombdrive
Image: Zombdrive

It’s unclear why BMW felt they needed the 5-Series GT. When it first appeared as the Progressive Activity Sedan concept in 2007, it seemed BMW were just toying with niches in a similar manner to their Swabian rivals in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. But PAS was no R-Class, being far more saloon-like in concept and appearance, even if the desirability of a 5-door BMW hatchback as large as a 7-Series seemed questionable even in those innocent pre-crash times.  Continue reading “Requiem for a 5-Series”

Far from the mainstream: Aspid to Borgward

We continue our stroll down the list of obscure brands that may tempt you from Opel, Ford and VW.

2012 Aspid: source
2012 Aspid GT-21 Invictus: source

I shall kick off with Aspid. Seven linger on the lists of Autoscout 24. Based in Spain, Aspid sell rather specialised sports cars. Wikipedia has two lines on the cars and those seven sellers of used Aspids can´t find the time or mean to upload photos of their cars. That I find very curious. Everyone knows what a Golf looks like so if you don´t include a photo it´s not such a big deal. Since Aspids are less common, a photo would be quite helpful to whet the appetite of a the buyer torn between a 2012 Focus 1.4 and a €35,000 car with 404 hp on offer. Without photos it´s hard to know what to make of cars listed as being from 1999 (before Aspid was founded) with 45 hp and costing curious sums like €4431. The next one costs €5000 and has 355 hp. TopSpeed ran an article about the GT-21 in 2012 and Car   and Evo reviewed the SS in ’08 and ’09 respectively. The car GT-21 has a 4.4 litre  V8 and weighs half nothing meaning the claimed 0-60 last no longer than 2.9 seconds. It´s nice to know that cottage manufacturers exist outside of Modena and the British Midlands. Continue reading “Far from the mainstream: Aspid to Borgward”

Fiat Panda, as seen in 1989

Not so very, very long ago I presented an excellent gallery of Fiat Pandas as seen on location somewhere in sunny Italy – (thanks to Sean for helping out with the technicalities on that). Since then, I found the article Russell Bulgin wrote about the Panda in 1989. I had been thinking of this article in June.

1983-2003 Fiat Panda 4x4
1983-2003 Fiat Panda 4×4. I can´t be more precise about the date. Anyone?

For Autocar, Russell Bulgin wrote a series called the Bulgin Files (why the Bulgin Files?). The sub-header explained “Our angry young man is into his fourth week of driving bargain-basement superminis and now he auditions a Starlet and two Italian sisters, Fiat´s Uno and Panda.”

Bulgin´s florid text focuses on the Panda 750L and not the 4×4 (launched 1983). Bulgin pointed out that Fiat produced two supermini ranges, the Uno and the Panda. According to his analysis, the Uno had the character of “an urban sophisticate” and the Panda is “simpler and more rural, a car for country living and moseying sockless along the Mediterranean coast.” He got the second one right apart from the socklessness, I think, to judge by the prevalence of the Panda in the area I visited. What I need to do sometime is to find an equivalent area in France to see if anyone, anyone at all, is hanging on to 2CVs or even Renault 5s in similar numbers.

On reflection, I don´t think Bulgin got it right when he called both cars superminis. There might only be a few centimetres (one to five centrimetres) difference´between the cars; that isn´t quite enough to define the cars. The Panda has an entirely different character, definitely a small car character. It never had five doors and its engines never reached the dizzying outputs the Uno sustained. Continue reading “Fiat Panda, as seen in 1989”

Land Rover’s XJ40

Not satisfied with a year-long treatise on Jaguar’s maligned mid-80s saloon contender, Driventowrite’s kitty chronicler-at-large goes looking for connections further afield, if perhaps not quite in one. Can we be serious, I hear you ask? Allow us to count the ways.

The P38A Range Rover. Image: autokult
The 1994-2001 P38A Range Rover. Image: autokult

In 1988 thoughts at Rover Group finally began to coalesce around a replacement for the original Range Rover. P38A was the result, a car mostly dismissed now as a half-hearted reworking of a true original. Sound familiar? Well, history isn’t just confined to repeating itself at Jaguar, because as you’ll see, similarities between P38A and Jaguar’s XJ40 run surprisingly deep. Continue reading “Land Rover’s XJ40”

The Removal of Doubt

‘Evolution: /e-va-loo’ shan/ n the cumulative change in the genetic composition of an organism over succeeding generations, resulting in a species totally different from remote ancestors.’

Image: emercedesbenz
Image: emercedesbenz

There are a number of striking aspects to this photo, but most compelling for me is the iterative nature of each model from Ponton through Heckflosse, Strich Acht all the way to the 1976 W123. The break in the evolutionary chain therefore begins with the 1985 W124 which is stands out, not just for its essential rightness but for the fact that in this company it appears so dramatically at odds with Mercedes’ previously more cautious approach. Continue reading “The Removal of Doubt”

Gorfe´s Granadas: 1984 Ford Granada 2.3 L

The middle of the first half of the 1980s is considered an interesting time by fans of big Fords. Here´s why, according to Myles Gorfe, acting assistant classics consultant editor-at-large.

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The 1984 2.3 L offered all the main features of Ford´s respected motorway mile-muncher in an economical package. The styling was at the cutting edge but didn´t frighten people like spaceball weirdness from Renault, Peugeot´s bizarro big saloons or Citroen´s disastrously complicated hydraulic malarky. At the same time, it had a dash that Volvo and Mercedes couldn´t even dream of copying. BMW: they didn´t even get a look in. The Granada undercut Vauxhall´s drab Carlton and offered a modern V6 instead of the General´s dated and rough straight-six. You won´t find an engineer who has a bad word to say about Ford´s Cologne engine and you won´t find an engineer who will go anywhere near a Carlton (if you can find one – they are all rust now). But Continue reading “Gorfe´s Granadas: 1984 Ford Granada 2.3 L”

Little black number: 2000 Renault Twingo Initiale

Here we have a micro brougham, the luxuriously tiny Twingo, heir to the R5 Baccara.

2000 Renault Twingo Initiale
2000 Renault Twingo Initiale

Those are wood inserts on the dashboard. You can argue that such a treatment goes against the spirit of the Twingo in which case you can always buy a base model. Continue reading “Little black number: 2000 Renault Twingo Initiale”

Simon A. Kearne Interviews Sir Basil

In a recently transcribed interview  Driventowrite’s senior editor Simon A. Kearne matches wits with engineering legend, Sir Basil Milford-Vestible. 

Image: fab50s
Image: fab50s

It has been long assumed that Sir Basil Milford-Vestible never gave interviews, but a moth-eaten copy of The Journal of Automotive Progress – Spring 1959 number recently came to light in Simon’s attic. In a World exclusive, the mercurial engineering genius gossips about rivals, takes issue with aero and heaps vitriol on the double chevron.

Continue reading “Simon A. Kearne Interviews Sir Basil”

They don´t make them like that any more and they probably don´t exist either

If the headline had been a bit shorter this would almost count as a micropost. Not only did Ford make a 4×4 Sierra in XR trim, they also sold it in a calmer and cheaper GLS format. This is a 2.9 litre V6 four-wheel drive family car.

1989 Ford Sierra GLS 4x4: Autocar
1989 Ford Sierra GLS 4×4: Autocar

I didn´t find any for sale so those few Ford sold are now all rust or converted to XR fakes. Off the top of my head, the combination of six-cylinder power and four-wheel drive didn´t appear on many other contemporary saloons apart from the Scorpio and the ’86-’93 BMW 325iX. The Vectra had a 2.0 turbo.  That’s it then, for competitors, as far as I can see.

And Ford produced an interesting proposition. I imagine the Sierra could keep up with Land Rovers with little effort, so long as the LR didn´t drive onto a mountain, that is.

The late 80s witnessed a slew of 4×4 saloons (and we have discussed the Mitsubishi Galant here). This is the first time we’ve mentioned the Ford interpretation of the genre.  Are there any around? Not as such. I did find a Sierra Ghia 4×4 as a project car. The text which I will reproduce is very Myles Gorfe: Continue reading “They don´t make them like that any more and they probably don´t exist either”

Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Twelve

Received wisdom views it as the car that once and for all destroyed Lancia’s credibility as a producer of fine and finely crafted motor cars. Ultimately then, how does one encapsulate the Gamma?

Image: schlichtmeier
Image: schlichtmeier

When Fiat handed Sergio Camuffo Lancia’s flatlining cadaver and told him to administer emergency CPR, he did the best he could, but there was only so much that could be achieved. Because despite Fiat management allowing him sufficient autonomy during the immediate post-takeover period to produce cars that were (on the face of things at least) respectful of Lancia’s traditions, the Italian car giant’s locked-in prejudice against the upmarket led to a fatal ambivalence. This schizophrenic attitude to their new acquisition most likely informed the compromises that damned both the Beta family and later, the Gamma itself. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Twelve”

Misposted in Posterity’s Pigeonhole : Rover P6

We ask if it’s sometimes better to die young.

Rover 2000TC C

Recently it’s been pointed out that, whatever his past achievements, such as a surprisingly admirable commitment to gay rights, David Cameron, British Prime Minister at the time of writing, will be defined by history as the man primarily responsible for Britain leaving the European Union and, conceivably, of causing irreparable damage to the EU itself. Whether you deserve it or not, posterity can be a harsh judge.

For many, you’re only as good as your last gig, and the Rover name inevitably conjures up the image of the Phoenix Four circus act, blundering around the ring, being chased by their out of control MG XPower SV novelty car whilst stuffing ten quid notes down each other’s baggy trousers until the whole thing explodes in a puff of smoke and a boing of springs. There is, of course, an alternative image of Rover, that held by many of those who recently took full advantage of Mr Cameron’s terminally self-harming offer and voted for a return to ‘traditional British values’. In this view, a Rover is a light classical symphony of tasteful timber and leather, representing all that is fine, reassuring and comfortable about that green and pleasant island that sits, serenely, off the coast of Europe. This is equally inaccurate and, whereas Mr Cameron will probably deserve history’s view of him, Rover certainly does not. Continue reading “Misposted in Posterity’s Pigeonhole : Rover P6”

Knightsbridge, 2016

Back in the olden days, my younger self used to indulge in the stiff upper lip, olde worlde charms of Knightsbridge’s crusty kind of wealth. Today, golden sneakers have taken over from monk-strap brogues. 

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Behold the splendid variety and exceptional exclusivity that is the domain of upper class motoring in 2016!

As a young, car obsessed German boy, the illustrious parts of London used to be some kind of automotive mecca: Bentleys and Royces galore, not to mention vintage exotica (at a time when old cars were considered just that in Germany). There was a certain nonchalance even to that aloof chap that parked his Ferrari 456 halfway across a zebra crossing, just because that happened to be right in front of the café where he intended to have his breakfast. Not to mention all those  gentlemen in double-breasted pinstriped suits, who always seemed to embody some kind of aristocratic calm. Continue reading “Knightsbridge, 2016”

Far from the Mainstream: Aixam to Artega

Some of these little-known marques don´t justify an entire posting at DTW’s preciously-guarded webspace. So in this post we trot from Aixam who you may know to Artega, who you may not know.

2000 Aixam Luxe: source
2000 Aixam Luxe: source

Autoscout have 934 separate items for Aixam, maker of small electric cars. The cheapest costs €500 and boasts 4kW or 5 PS. These cars have a special place in rural France, so far as I have experienced it twenty-five years ago. Elderly people use them as a kind of proto-Dalek to trundle in a dry casing from village to village or perhaps from their home to the baker (if there still is a baker left in rural France). As many Aixam models are somewhere between assistive technology and personal transportation I am not going to mock them as they serve a need which is obviously legitimate. People like their independence and if it takes a 5kW vehicle to achieve that, that´s fine by me. This one (above) is for sale in Italy and none of the photos show the entire car. What I´d like to ask about these vehicles is why the designers can’t seem to make the most of the material used, plastic. Lots of plastic objects have a high-quality look to them but when scaled up to a car (and this includes the BMW Z1) something goes wrong with the radii. I am tempted to suggest that not enough work has been done to find a good expression for plastic at this scale. Next we  Continue reading “Far from the Mainstream: Aixam to Artega”

Astra du jour

This is the second last item in the collection, a mid-grey Astra F in five-door guise. 

1991-1997 Opel Astra F in Goslar, Germany
1991-1998 Opel Astra F in Goslar, Germany

The majority in my area are other colours and mostly saloons and estates. I saw this in Goslar, Germany. Nearby skulked a Ford Probe and that’s all the semi-interesting metal I can find around here. These Astras are not common here. This is one of very few around here.

1975 Lamborghini Urraco 3.0 road test

In what looks as if it might be a transcript of a 1975 review, the legendary motor-writer Archie Vicar reconsiders the merits of Lamborghini´s thirsty, unreliable and evil-handling Urraco. 

1974 Lamborghin Urraco: source
1974 Lamborghini Urraco: source

(The article, “Second thoughts, same as the first”  appeared originally in Scarborough Morning Bugle-Advertiser in June 1975. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the images, stock photo have been used.)

The A64 is my road to Damascus regarding the Urraco and indeed everything made by Lamborghini. The rain poured in sheets from the high heavens and as I stood at the window of the Old Telephone Box pub in Scagglethorpe (excellent beef and Yorkshire pudding) I noticed a lake of water accumulating inside the Urraco which was parked outside, with the A64 beyond. Actually, I say “road to Damascus” but that implies that there was a point when I held other opinions about the tractor-maker´s marque. In truth, my prejudices were confirmed on the A64.

Continue reading “1975 Lamborghini Urraco 3.0 road test”

Not for sale around here: 2012 Peugeot 301

The interior materials and colours give away the intended market. Surely this exterior would appeal to a fair few buyers?

2012 Peugeot 301
2012 Peugeot 301

What are those interior materials like? Pale, hard plastics on the door casings and velour upholstery. Nothing about the shapes scared me. With more appropriate trim I don’t see why this couldn’t find customers. Continue reading “Not for sale around here: 2012 Peugeot 301”

‘Drive Sporty’ – Porsche’s Panamera Redux

Last week, Porsche revealed their second generation Panamera and as predicted it is a good 33% less lumpen than the last one.

Panamera 2. Image: porsche via jalopnik
Better, but better enough? Panamera V2.0 Image: porsche via jalopnik

All of which is fine and dandy, because I’m not here to throw fruit or other perishables at Michael Mauer or his minions. However I will say that to these eyes at least, my boat remains resolutely aground, becalmed, unfloated. Continue reading “‘Drive Sporty’ – Porsche’s Panamera Redux”

A Photoseries for Sunday: 1973-1979 Daimler Vanden Plas

This set is courtesy of Mick, our Leinster correspondent. The license plate indicates it is an import from the UK, first registered there and brought to the ROI at a later date. Let us glory in its bronzey-goldness.

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One way of looking at these cars is to see them as a poorer-man´s Rolls-Royce. Or as a hyper-Brougham version of an already very Brougham car. I don´t think these cars thrive in Ireland due to the rain but the huge tyres and supple suspension are ideal. I think anyone considering a luxury car for use in Ireland ought to insist on the highest sidewalls possible but generally people shoe their cars as if they lived in Frankfurt.

Far From the Mainstream: ACM Biaggini Passo

As we work our way down the list of lesser-brands, we come to ACM Biaggini Passo. If you want one there are 7 on sale at Autoscout24 but some might not be the real thing.

1990-1993 ACM Biaggini Passo: source
1990-1993 ACM Biaggini Passo: source

Judging by the numbers, an ACM Biaggini Passo is a 4×4 cabriolet based on the Mk1 Golf. The one shown here has its own grille and a few extra touches to signal its off-road intent.  The interior had a huge tubular bar fitted across the dashboard. Prices are flimsy to firm. A cheap one costs in the region of €4000 and they go on up to whatever someone typed in at the time, say, €15,000. Continue reading “Far From the Mainstream: ACM Biaggini Passo”

Theme : Colour – Introduction

All Cars Are Grey In The Dark

SM Colours

Colour. What a minefield that is! From your playground days, you might remember angry debates as to whether you had a right to nominate Green as your ‘favourite colour’. And, unlike many other childish foibles, the irrational and excessive reaction to colour doesn’t go away.

As you can see from the above collage provided to me by Sean Patrick, some people agonise over colour. Some years ago, the poor boy went to great lengths to decide which colour to respray his car though he tells me that he is still not sure he made the right choice. Personally speaking, I favour grey, which is not strictly a colour, or, if I must nominate actual colours, those shades used by the military. I am more liberal concerning the choices of others. Unfortunately, the motor industry is not. Continue reading “Theme : Colour – Introduction”

History Falls

Ghosts of Browns Lane: Today, Jaguar’s Heritage collection is in much safer hands but in the closing months of 2011 the future looked a good deal more uncertain. We take a look back at Jaguar’s former museum prior to its demolition. (Authors note: a version of this piece originally appeared in 2011 on the online edition of Car Magazine).

2005_0101JagMuseum0120
Image: The author

You can tell a good deal about the ethos of a car company by how it views its past. Enzo Ferrari was notorious for his callous attitude to last season’s race car; many simply destroyed, since in his view the only good car was the next one. Such views were not uncommon amidst the grand marques, resulting in vast sums being spent buying back significant cars once they realised exactly what a well curated museum would do for their image. So while it remains fairly unlikely that Ssangyong has seen fit to lay up a pristine Rexton for posterity, anyone with an image to project and a heritage to exploit either already has or really ought to.

Continue reading “History Falls”

Theme: Materials – Decay III

Did you know that VW based the B3 (of which the B4 is a facelift) on the Golf platform? 

1993-199xx VW Passat rotting slowly
1993-1996 VW Passat rotting slowly

And yet it’s bigger in all directions. That might explain why there are so many common parts. I took this photo as a contrast to the Mercedes W210 I showed recently. I’d planned to compose some thoughts on the junk charm of the B4 compared to the W210. This car is nicely tatty and the mismatched filler cap sets off the dreary metallic paint very well. I’d prefer if it was the B3 in a rich colour. Maybe that’s a bit contrived.