Ostensibly I am writing about the Megane. Really I am concerned with something else.
Earlier this week Chris lamented the sameness of midsized family cars today. This Megane looks like nothing else and only looks better with age. Alas, its durability does not live up to the standard set by the aesthetics. I’m not going to Continue reading “Micropost: 2002-2009 Renault Megane”
This is an odd subject for a site devoted to automobiles. Have we made a bit of mistake? Can we avoid another?
Two items appeared on the ghostly, glowing timewaste that is my iPhone. In one article the CEO of Lyft, John Zimmer, observed that Americans were pouring away an average of about $9000 a year owing a car. He estimated the occupancy rate was about one percent given that most cars have four seats and are used less than 5% of the time. The Lyft chap predicts car ownership in cities will decline markedly in the next decade: ““Every year, more and more people are concluding that it is simpler and more affordable to live without a car,” he wrote. “And when networked autonomous vehicles come onto the scene, below the cost of car ownership, most city dwellers will stop using a personal car.”Continue reading “Joining the dots”
As well as providing the location for the suspension system and being sufficiently durable, a car body needs to protect the bodies of the occupants. And to look alright.
If we compare the smooth bodies of contemporary vehicles with early attempts at safety engineering you notice how safety was first “added on” by means of obviously larger bumpers and also by the use of safety padding inside the car. Volvo took this approach as did the GM ESV (1972) and Fiat with the ESV (1973). GM did also provide for passive safety by removing the A-pillars and fitting airbags.
Automotive News has a timely editorial concerning the EV-1 which I once drove. Here are some of the photos.
Prompted by AN, I took out my photos from 1997 and found the shots from the day I drove the EV-1 (top, right) in California.
The salesman at the EV-1 car dealership presented the car as a something for enthusiasts (which contrasted with the sludge I expect he was selling). The idea was that the EV-1 would appeal to people still interested in the technology and car-ness of cars. At the time I was a bit cynical about the GM car. 90 miles didn´t really seem that impressive although even today a 90 mile range would be very useful for most people´s daily needs. I got that wrong then. The Bolt has a 238 mile range.
How many Buicks are there on sale in Europe? Shockingly, there are 270 of them at mobile.de alone. But a two cylinder diesel, plastic bodied micro car is worth more.
The first roadworthy Buick is on sales in Vilnius and is only this price €1500 because it is upside down and must be rolled on its roof on four skateboards. Chillingly, most of the Buicks cost more than €3000. A 1995 Park Avenue painted in checker taxi colours and with 144,000 km is still
Autumn’s in the air, the nights are closing in and it’s really no time to be hanging around graveyards. For one thing, you’ll catch your death…
It’s probably about time I owned up to having a morbid interest in revenants. I know, it’s unedifying at best and potentially illegal, but I really can’t seem to help myself. Time and again I make the same vain promise: no more loitering around dank graveyards, only to be escorted home by the local constabulary amid muttered admonitions of ‘not you again?’ But it’s no good, the lure of broken soil and the troubled sleep of the eternal is just too strong. So imagine my reaction to Autocar running a story on Citröen’s plans to retake the large saloon market? It’s simply another one way ticket to the back seat of a blues and twos Astra. Continue reading “Cemetery Polka”
Too much bratwurst has our correspondent wishing for a more varied menu.
I would hope that I am fairly knowledgeable about cars. Not in a useful way, obviously; I know so little about how they actually function that I attribute their abilities to modern day alchemy. But from the mid-1990s onwards when my brain began its fruitless journey towards maturity, a large (-ly useless) part of my memory has been dedicated to passively storing and updating a mental catalogue of new cars available in the UK. Imagine my surprise then when a recent advert on TV sparked precisely zero recognition of the make and model being sold. Continue reading “The Imitation Game”
The contrast between the Caprice and Mini coupe caught my eye.
The Caprice is a car I’ve wanted to photograph for a long while. It’s thrillingly basic. The loadbay might be long and wide yet it’s also quite shallow. I don’t know what’s under the high floor: fuel tank and transmission I suppose. Continue reading “The long and the short”
Car people talk a lot about a car’s behaviour, but what about the driver’s?
A few months ago, our theme was ‘Values’. The term ‘a set of values’ is often used by those self-aggrandising people who want to take moral high-ground and suggest that they, but not other people, have an honourable code by which they act in all things. I’m suspicious of people with inflexible moral rules, either for themselves or other people, but, of course, you can’t analyse each and every situation you find yourself in, so we do tend to develop standard responses to identifiable situations. Continue reading “Morality, Integrity and Etiquette”
Regular readers of Driven to Write will be well aware of Kris Kubrick’s writings on subjects as diverse as the machinations within VAG, the social history of the W126 S-Class or indeed travels through Italy in his majestic Jaguar XJ12. So it is with with some pride and no little emotion that we salute Kris on his own website venture. Continue reading “Introducing Auto Didakt”
Amidst the stolid carpark fare of Gaydon’s National Motor Museum, this little gem gleamed.
I can’t be certain about the year, but the mesh side grilles flanking the scudetto and the presence of the ornate chromed side repeaters on the front wings suggests this is a late-series Sprint. The car was pristine, looking delicate and almost fragile amidst the bloated moderns in its midst. Continue reading “A photoseries for Sunday – Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint”
We are very proud of our focus on this aspect of car design: ashtrays.
This one serves in a Renault 4. The quattrelle had a three decade production run; it’s not fanciful to wonder if it could have endured as long as the Defender had it been marketed as slightly separate to Renault’s modern range. Continue reading “Ashtrays: Renault 4”
Whoever last owned this car really should have gone for a Vectra or Mondeo. The original alloys probably corroded and needed to be replaced with something sympathetic. You can put jokey wheels on an old Mondeo as they are blank canvas. These wheels are a custom paint job, I think. One does not customise a Lancia. Perhaps the last owner considered the disjunction of motorsport style colours and the Kappa’s formality amusing, like wearing runners with a suit. Continue reading “Something rotten in Denmark: 1996 Lancia Kappa”
A 1977 Wolseley 18-22. As named, this car had a mayfly-brief production run. Something quite like it could be purchased until 1982 (sold as an Austin Princess and Austin Princess 2 until 1981). Why is it labelled a 1977 though?
And something quite like that appeared in showrooms from 1982 to 1984, the Austin Ambassador. They re-tooled the body and engineered a hatchback for 24 months of sales. That´s another story, British Leyland has plenty of those. Continue reading “Something rebadged in Denmark”
Spot a Triumph TR7 in a car park and you may well experience something rather strange.
Unenlightened passers-by won’t give it a second look, whereas examples of most of its boxy contemporaries would attract their immediate attention. The last of the TRs shares with its Rover SD1 stablemate an ability to blend into the 21st century carscape, despite originating over forty years ago. Continue reading “Opening up the TR7 envelope”
This one shows Toyota in its aero phase and is unusually fuss-free.
It’s still flawed though. The back-end is too heavy around the bumper. I can see that they wanted a swoopy, space-age feel and if the black covering the sills had extended from front to back the car would have achieved a more coherent look and lost no spacey-ness Continue reading “Micropost: 1990-1994 Toyota Camry Estate”
The Peugeot 309 is, I feel, a European equivalent of the kind of anonymous car GM and Ford made in the 1970s and 1980s. What is there like it today?
What makes the 309 such an oddity is that it should have been a Talbot but had to use Peugeot components and ended as a Peugeot anyway. Its development team had roots in the Rootes group and Simca: British and French. The stylists in Coventry and engineers at the former Simca centre at Poissy were forced to Continue reading “What is today’s 309?”
The same year Concorde entered service, Aston Martin introduced a roadgoing equivalent. But like the emblematic supersonic jetliner, the Lagonda embodied a future which ultimately failed to take flight.
Despite the fact that it didn’t run and wouldn’t actually enter production for another three years the Lagonda’s thrilling sci-fi appearance caused a media sensation in the Autum of 1976 and probably saved Aston Martin’s bacon at a very difficult time. Because a year before, the Newport Pagnell-based car maker was in receivership, falling prey, like Jensen, Iso and Maserati to the fallout from the 1973 oil crisis coupled with the costs of adhering to ever-tightening safety and emissions regulations. Continue reading “Class of ’76 – Aston Martin Lagonda”
Every driver is in possession of one but they are all different: bodies. An obvious major challenge in design is making a vehicle fit a wide range of them.
And another is to design something the minds inside the bodies´ heads can understand. Like any discipline, one can trace ergonomics back to the stone age when cavemen argued over the best shape of a stone for cutting skins. I´d like to fast forward to World War 2 when the US military tried to put some of the findings of Frederick Winslow Taylor into effect so as to make it easier to operate military equipment and the controls of aeroplanes. It wasn´t until 1960 when the American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss published The Measure of Man that the idea that machines might fit people and not the other way around began its slow percolation into the minds of car designers. In some ways the idea was ahead of the application. Advertisements in the 1960s talked about ergonomics with little evidence to show for it in terms of seating design, controls placement or legibility of the instruments. Continue reading “Theme: Bodies – People’s”
Many of us have to do ‘selling’ of some sort as part of our lives. It’s a branch of social negotiation. You have something you want someone else to do, and you need to present a case to them as to why they should do it. So, if you’ve ever had to persuade your kids to go to bed, you know how difficult it is to sell things. Continue reading “Shifting Metal”
With the reveal of Alfa Romeo’s new crossover only weeks away, we look back at a few they made earlier.
Alfa Romeo has confirmed it will reveal the forthcoming Stelvio crossover/SUV at this November’s Los Angeles motor show. It’s a highly significant reveal for FCA’s mainstream ‘premium offering’ since it will be the key to the commercial fate of the Alfa renaissance. Failure will not be an option. We’re likely to hear a good deal about how this will be the fabled Milanese marque’s first stab at a production SUV, but while that may be accurate in a literal sense, it won’t be Alfa Romeo’s first off-roader. Continue reading “A Matta of Precedence”
This could be about the Cadillac De Ville convertible, which is enough of car to write a few hundred words about. What rose to the top of the froth was that I don´t really know what year this car is from for sure.
That´s the badge on the car. I didn´t see others. Presumably one of our very knowledgeable US visitors knows the serial number and which dealer it was sold from. The part I´d like to deal with is the way GM/Cadillac managed to change the appearance of their cars with such incredible rapidity. These days a car might get a new set of bumpers every three years and even then the difference is often slight due to the need to retain common feature lines and shapes. In the good old days of square, modular styling the car could be chopped up quite markedly and large parts changed without the carried over bits looking wrong.
For two wonderful years the Opel Kadett and Opel Astra F shared space at Opel dealers across this wonderful continent (1991 t0 1993). And Bertone in Turin supplied the car too.
That Bertone supplied the mechanism and built the bodies is news to me. It competed with the Ford Escort cabriolet, made by Karmann, and the Golf cabriolet, made by Karmann, which was the Mk 1 Golf, as per 1974 minus a roof. Continue reading “1987-1993 Opel Kadett cabriolet”
We looked at the extensive failings of the Avensis’ auxiliary controls this week. This article deals with the rest of the car.
Toyota have been making this class of car for 50 years. The Avensis name has been attached to offerings in the middle market for 19 years. This version is third one to carry the name. They ought to be pretty good at this by now. So, we ask, what is it like to Continue reading “2014 Toyota Avensis (Part 2)”
I had high expectations of Friedrichstadt, a perfect little displaced Dutch town in German Nordfriesland, but they didn’t include two Alfa 2600s.
Their presence was unexplained. No ‘Oldtimer’ gathering, no other participants on a one make outing. I would hate to think that they had just ‘failed to proceed’. The 2600 Sprint’s charms are beyond dispute, but a bit of fact-finding on the Berlina sprung some surprises. Continue reading “A Photoset for Friday: Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina”
As Skoda readies its ursine SUV contender, we ask can it adapt to the North American landscape?
News that VW Group senior management are seriously evaluating Skoda’s entry into the North American car market is significant yet unsurprising. In many ways, it’s difficult to understand why it hasn’t happened before. After all, the US market tends to favour no nonsense cars and US success would raise Skoda’s and therefore VW Group revenues. And heaven knows, they need all the help they can get right now. Continue reading “Please Bear With US While We Recalibrate Our Offer”
The Avensis tested here is now out of production. This appears to be a 2014-2015 model. The user-interface proved so troubling I had to make that aspect into a separate article. The rest of the review comes later.
The controls are divided into two sets, the driving controls and the auxiliaries. I will deal with the auxiliaries in this article. Overall, the Avensis is riddled with odd choices and evidence of poor decision-making. It exemplifies a number of user-interface principles, but negatively.
Open cars are not really the same as convertibles. By which I mean that convertibles may be open sometimes, but a true ‘open’ car is almost always open. Sometimes this may be because they don’t even have the option of a weather-resistant roof, sometimes because what is on offer is so ineffective and rudimentary, that it is hardly ever used. Needless to say, the United Kingdom is not seen as a primary market for such vehicles. Our weather is too variable to make possession of such vehicles a practical proposition. It’s no coincidence that hot-rods and dune buggies hail from the sunnier parts of the USA and not Essex. Continue reading “Theme : Bodies – Open Cars”
This is a short round-up of items that aren´t worth a whole article: news from Ford, Hyundai and Citroen.
First, Ford have announced a V6 version of the US version of the Mondeo. The Fusion boasts 325 hp and all-wheel drive. The car has adaptive damping and, as usual with Ford, disappointing seats. Will Ford Europe make this motor available? This academic study indicates what matters to customers, regarding seating. And this item from TTAC also shows the value of good seats. The one thing I remember from my time in a Citroen Xsara: the excellent seats.
Speaking of Citroen, they have added a new trim line called Performance which does not improve performance of the DS cars: “Available on the DS 3, DS 3 Cabrio, DS 4 and DS 5, Performance Line comes in two-tone black with a specific palette of body colours and new gloss black wheels,” writes Autocar. Performance indeed.
In this final Gamma instalment, we examine alternate realities and the model’s shifting media perceptions.
It’s forty years since the Gamma was presented to the World’s press at Geneva and a lot has been heaped upon its shoulders in the interim. While undeniably a sales and reputational disaster, to view the Lancia flagship as simply a bad car is narrow and simplistic. To close this series, we ask whether Fiat could have chosen a different path. Continue reading “Gamma Bytes: Fated Symbol”
In what seems to be a transcript of a period review, the legendary motoring correspondent Archie Vicar reports on the “all-new” Bristol 411.
[This article could well have first appeared in the Sheffield Sunday Post, 25th Jan 1970. Due to the poor quality of the original images (by Douglas Land-Windermere), stock photos have been used.]
It´s all change at Bristol. The fast-moving Filton manufacturer has responded to the challenges of the times with a veritable flotilla of improvements to their latest car, the 411.
Bristol has many unique attributes to help it stay ahead of the competition in these increasingly competitive times. First among them is the remarkably high level of quality on which they insist: the cars are hand-made by craftsman steeped in aviation engineering and versed in production methods that go back decades. While Rolls-Royce and indeed Bentley have switched to monococque construction – making them little more than Cortinas with wood and walnut, some say – Bristol have retained their separate chassis with hand-beaten aluminium panels.
I could very well have served the two up together as a provocation. When I saw the 340 I wondered what it was doing at the gathering of classics and not parked outside. Yet not far away the 1976 AMC Pacer parked at the same event. That car gathered curious glances and much detailed inspection while the 340 didn´t at all. Yet both cars were there because they had loving owners for whom their vehicles were a source of pride and joy. I have argued that the Pacer, for all its demerits, was deserving of affection. Someone has to preserve these interesting old cars and you can
In this article we briefly review a method that improves rigidity, helps achieve the goal of a lighter car and also simplifies production. Which car have you sat in that uses this method?
The car body must meet two contradictory requirements: lightness and strength. Lightness abets performance and improves agility: less car to turn. It also usually helps keep the cost down. At the same time, a car must not fall apart while standing still or while in motion. And if the car should hit something it needs to protect the occupants. Usually you may have lightness or robustness but not both.
For a long time cars´ bodies have been made by assembling parts – usually metal – in such a way as to balance the conflicting needs of lightness or strength. Some makers have tended towards lightness. Colin Chapman famously wanted to add lightness with the result that his cars managed creditable performance and excellent road manner at the expense of falling apart with lamentable readiness. Lotus, is has been said, stands for lots of trouble, usually serious. The French marques, Renault and Citroen more than Peugeot, have preferred lightness and many of their cars have been very pleasing to drive. Alas, they aren´t incredibly durable. At the other extreme, Rolls Royce bodies are usually very robust (though older ones are rust prone). This means one can
Alfa Romeo really ought to have made these lovely Pininfarina concepts – well maybe not…
By the mid-1980s, Italy’s Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale had run out of the two crucial components necessary for their ongoing custody of Alfa Romeo: patience and money. Having come bitingly close to selling the ailing motor company to Ford in 1985, Fiat swooped in and made the Italian government agency a far more palatable offer, both financially and politically. With the storied marque now a part of the sprawling Fiat empire, carrozzeria Pininfarina were quick to see the potential, and for the 1986 Turin show, prepared twin concepts for a new coupé and spider derivative, called Vivace. Continue reading “Transitory Twins – 1986 Alfa Romeo Vivace”
Disappointment takes many forms. Today it looks something like this – the 2017 Kia Rio.
Having shown us a stylist’s render of the forthcoming Kia Rio about a week ago, the Korean car giant’s PR machine has released the first photos of its new supermini contender. The new Rio is more ‘grown up’ and of course, ‘sportier’, which is another way of saying it’s wider, lower and longer both in overall length and in wheelbase. Autocar described it thus; “the 2017 car will evolve the design of its predecessor with an aggressive nose and more muscular and vertically angled rear”, which sounds like a straight lift from the press pack if you ask me. Continue reading “Rio Grande”
It happened to Jaguar and Porsche and will happen to Alfa Romeo (they say) . Lamborghini have run out of very wealthy men to sell big engined sports cars to.
According to Automotive News the target customers for their Urus CUV will be women and families.
At the moment Lamborghini´s range consists of varying degrees of low and sporty with a largely academic choice of V10 and V12 engines. The plan is to show the softer side of Lamborghini and try to woo buyers who are thinking of their families. I expect this is code for finding customers who are women and who might want to Continue reading “It had to happen”
Simon wonders whether we really have the breadth of choice we should have.
Once, it was common for a motor manufacturer to produce and sell just the running chassis. In some cases they might fit a particular body, either in-house or bought in but, otherwise, the customer could go to a coachbuilder and get it bodied to their particular specification. This might be to a stock pattern, a limited production run if you like which meant that you could find different makes of car looking remarkably similar from the scuttle back, or it might be to the client’s commissioned design. They might choose closed or open bodywork and, within that, there was a plethora of identifiable styles such as Landaulet, Doctor’s Coupe, Berline, Boattail, Phaeton, Sedanca De Ville, Limousine, Cabriolet, All-Weather, Coupe, Brougham, Roadster or Close-Coupled. Further to this, as with any bespoke item, the body could often be adjusted to the owner’s personal needs or preferences. Continue reading “Theme : Bodies – Introduction”
Quite some time has elapsed since I mentioned I´d write a little about the Bristol Bullet. This reminds me of the legendary Archie Vicar taking several months to decide what he thought about the Peugeot 505.
You can read the general outline here: big engine, light car, Italian retromod styling, carbonfibre body and a big price tag (£250,000).
I’ve always been aware of Bristol Cars, but it was only in this century that I started looking at them more closely. Until then, they were an oddity, but one that, for some reason, seemed to engender goodwill rather than antagonism in me.
Bearing in mind its scant production over the past decades, there is a surprising amount of goodwill felt towards Bristol in the world of the motoring enthusiast, though often not accompanied by much actual knowledge. I guess that people view them in the same way as their stereotypical owner – a British gent, dressed well but discreetly, aged but sprightly, always dignified and with excellent manners, yet a touch eccentric. I might question whether such a creature ever existed, except I did once know someone exactly like that – though he drove a white Toyota Crown Coupe. But they are a dying breed, which is possibly why Bristol died in 2011. But someone would have you believe that it didn’t Continue reading “Bristol Bullet (Part I) – Life After Filton?”
[Hello, Finns!] Sufficient time has elapsed now for Citroen to admit to making the CX. Make that 25 years in the dog house before they could bear to put the name, or something like it, on their latest concept car, the Cxperience. Thancx, Citroen. Extrapolating from this we may have the Xmination concept car in 2026.
The car is showcasing the drivetrain and not the appearance. We´ll see what others have to say about the oily/electrical bits first.
Digital Trends explains the car´s technology: “The CXPerience uses a plug-in hybrid drivetrain made up of a gasoline-burning engine that provides anywhere between 150 and 200 horsepower and a compact electric motor. The motor draws electricity from a 3kWh battery pack to power the concept by itself for up to 40 miles. When the engine kicks in, the hybrid drivetrain delivers up to 300 horsepower through an eight-speed automatic transmission. ” Motor Authority prefers to explain it like this: “The powertrain of the Cxperience concept combines a small gasoline engine with an electric motor and has a peak output of about 272 horsepower. The gas engine is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and drives the front wheels, while the electric motor drives the rear wheels helping to create a “through-the-road” hybrid all-wheel-drive system. A 3.0-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery provides about 37 miles of electric range.”
The 1975 AMC Pacer is one of those famously unsuccessful cars to list with the Pontiac Aztek, Chevrolet Corvair, DeLorean DMC-12 and perhaps the Tucker Torpedo. As a resident of that list, it´s also routinely jeered at due to its appearance. I´d like to take a different tack with this and reflect on what is right with the car and also to consider the possibility of taking enjoyment in other people´s enjoyment of a car.
Cadillac’s latter-day Art and Science design theme saw many fine concepts, but this perhaps was its pinnacle.
For a company that has experienced as many false dawns as Alfa Romeo and as many brilliant unrealised concepts as Renault, the fact that latter-day success continues to elude Cadillac remains one of automotive’s more absorbing melodramas. Recently, exterior design director, Bob Boniface told an Automotive News reporter; “There’s still this misperception in the public’s eye that Cadillacs are these big, heavy cars that your grandparents used to drive. We haven’t built those cars in generations. But you almost have to overachieve in the messaging.” One can see his rationale. Continue reading “Sixteen Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six”
Just two Renault 30s remain in Denmark. Here is the driver’s ashtray of one of them, another DTW world exclusive.
I may not have seen an R30 for decades. Like all Renaults these cars aren’t keepers so almost nobody has preserved them. The owner was embarassed by the paint.
This opportunity afforded me a close look at the finish, fit and materials. Having recently seen the 1975 Peugeot 604 I can see that the Renault doesn’t do things worse but differently. The ashtray is smaller than I expected; the R25 (how did the series number fall back?) had one maybe twice as large though. The position is okay; it’s a tray-type with a smooth action.
In the Triumph naming system, the TR numbers indicated a new body. Not the TR8.
The ’65-67 TR4a had a four-cylinder 2.1 litre unit. The ’67-68 TR5 had a straight six 2.5 litre unit as did the TR6 which ran to 1976. Then Triumph reverted to a 2.0 litre four with the TR7. Oddly then the TR8 name served to indicate a new engine, the Rover V8 and not a new body. But it’s the disappointing ashtray that we’re here to Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1978-1981 Triumph TR8”