At Driven to Write, we believe all marques have a story to tell and today’s subject, from a half-forgotten outlier is no exception. But before we get to the subject at hand, it’s probably worth a little recap.
The Proton motor company was founded in 1983 and until the advent of rival, Perodua a decade later, was the sole indigenous Malaysian carmaker. Initially partnered with Mitsubishi, who for a time owned a minority stake in the business, Proton cars were mildly reheated Mitsubishi models, like the unfortunately named Saga, which was Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional’s earliest offering in the United Kingdom – first introduced in 1989.
But despite its senior citizen connotations, the Saga proved a successful model line, with over 30,000 sold in the first three years. Indeed, Proton was for a time at least, viewed as Continue reading “A Proton Saga”
An opportunity to ‘have a go’ in a friendly colleague’s new Tesla provided me with a first experience of driving an EV.
I fully realise that it’s not that remarkable to have driven one of Elon Musk’s finest, but it’s a landmark in my longish and ever-lengthening motoring life and so I feel driven to write one of my usual streams of consciousness about the experience and the car itself.
One of the guys in my team has a flat black 75D on order and Tesla has lent him a white car to bridge the gap whilst his is being built / delivered, which is a nice touch. Knowing how much of a car nerd I am, he popped in yesterday to offer me a quick go. It turned out I was not the first that day; given he leads an IT department, a load of tech nerds had got there before me. Interesting that, the Tesla appeals to both car and tech enthusiasts … Continue reading “Quick Drive: Tesla Model S 75D”
A clumsy name for a rather clumsy car. Ten years ago, Alfa Romeo took aim at the MINI (and its ilk) and missed. We plot the MiTo’s wobbly trajectory.
Alfa Romeo has throughout its long history enjoyed a distinctly patchy relationship with small cars. Pre-War, such a notion would probably have been laughable but even in the latter half of the 20th century, despite the occasional prototype, the smallest car Portello actually got round to Continue reading “Two Cities, One Car”
In an exclusive preview ahead of its unveiling at the 2021 Geneva show, Driven To Write can reveal the significantly refreshed Mercedes A-class.
The current Mercedes A-class, internally dubbed W177, receives an extensive mid-life facelift, to be officially presented at the 91th Geneva International Motor Show. Ahead of the world premiere, Driven To Write can provide exclusive insight into the most significant overhaul the A-class model has ever received.
“It’s time to be bold. It’s time for creases”
Daimler AG’s Chief Creative Officer, Gorden Wagener proclaims that the refreshed A-class is more than the regular nip-&-tuck-job. “The A-class is one of our icons. It is the most premium car in its class, and this new design shows that more than ever.”
This could also have been Something Rotten In Denmark. However, it isn’t listed on-line so it’ll have to be a Photo For Sunday.
I had not taken two photos before the owner leaped out of his workshop nearby to tell me that this beauty had only covered 89,000 km. The green tinted body-work and phenomenal condensation inside the car strongly spoke against the vehicle in practice. In principle, it’s a Mk 1 Ford Probe which detail further argues against it. One other nice aspect of buying this car is that if you absolutely had to Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 1990 Ford Probe”
The history of the motor industry is littered with lost causes and alternative realities. Today, we look at one of the more poignant examples.
Even in automotive terms, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell is not a household name, although perhaps he ought to be. The late German engineer and product supremo enjoyed a stellar career at BMW and in 2004, landed what appeared to be not only a dream job, but one which promised truly great things.
We have a bit of crystal ball gazing from the chief designer of Toyota, reported in Automotive News. The mainstream car will go extinct. Not that surprising, really. But why do we have a Ford Taunus as the main image?
Starting with the idea that a large proportion of the cars made in the future will be externally controlled (“self-driving”), people’s relationship to cars will change. Simon Humphries’ vision is that most cars will be anonymous containers on wheels and a small remainder will be highly specialised luxury or performance items. He imagines “pure race cars” can be created.
Continuing this month’s Ka-fest at DTW, we turn our thoughts to a South American curiosity. While Ford of Europe outsourced the difficult second Ka iteration to Fiat Automobiles S.p.A, Ford do Brasil did things rather differently.
The Brazilian Novo Ka went on sale in January 2008, nine months before the European replacement for the 12 year old original. The European car is not really a Ford at all, while the Brazilian car placed an ingeniously re-worked superstructure on its predecessor’s B platform, which originated with the 1989 Fiesta.
Another year, another Maserati sales crisis. But just how tarnished are the Trident’s prongs?
It does appear at times that the only Maserati news is bad news. When we last reported on the Tridente’s fortunes in 2015, a woebegone tale was unfolding, with FCA’s Harald Wester revising his forecasts downwards in the wake of disappointing sales.
Last Autumn it was widely reported that production at the Mirafiori plant which builds the Levante crossover (and Alfa MiTo incidentally) was temporarily halted, owing to changes in Chinese regulations regarding the manner in which manufacturers and dealers should Continue reading “Hammer Time”
Today’s car can claim to be special by dint of its rarity. GM never sold the G6 in Europe and so this vehicle must be one of a very small handful of examples on this side of Atlantic. In Denmark it has no peers**.
Three hypotheses: it came from the US as a by-product of work secondment from the US to Denmark (“We have to bring the Pontiac, Carol”). Two, it is a very specific and personal import for someone who just happened to really like the G6 (“There is nothing like this car, I must have it”). Three: it came to Denmark via a US soldier stationed in Germany (“We have to bring the Pontiac, Nick.”). A quick call might answer that and maybe I’ll find out.
Alfa Romeo’s choice of ‘brand ambassador’ is inspired – and telling, maybe in more ways than intended.
Unlike so many ‘brand testimonials’, Giovanni Giorgio (or Hansjörg, as his mother referred to him) Moroder isn’t the kind of person who caught the public eye for all the wrong reasons. He never had his own reality TV show or featured in a programme of this kind as a guest. He didn’t enjoy a very public, tabloid-filling affair of the romantic or some other variety.
Slightly unusual this: it’s not on my street. I had to go almost two kilometres to see this one. It’s enormous and really useful. That makes it a Landcruiser, another one.
The title for this regular item could almost be “the odd cars on my street” but this is not on my street. For some reason there haven’t been so very many oddities outside my front door in recent weeks. One exception appeared the day my mobile telephone lay recharging on the kitchen worktop (Wednesday): a Renault Koleos.
Not the new one, the first one, the one nobody bought. That sighting brought to two the tally of said cars observed by yours truly since Renault launched it upon an unsuspecting world in 2007. I suppose it’s ironic that I am addressing the subject of the unphotographed Koleos in an article ostensibly about the VDJ76R GXL** shown here. They are almost polar opposites, aren’t they?
The current KA+ is a dispiriting sight for those who appreciated the original’s daring style. Today, we consider lost causes in the form of the 2010 Start concept.
Presenting a plausible and attractive evolution of the Ur-KA silhouette, Start came out of Ford’s Californian design centre, allegedly as a conceptual piece of blue sky thinking. Designed by Jeff Nield under the supervision of Freeman Thomas, Start debuted at the 2010 Beijing motor show, touted as a technology trailblazer for the blue oval.
A delightfully organic, podlike shape, the stylistic homages to the original 1996 KA are abundant, especially in the shaping and treatment of the Continue reading “Start at the End”
DTW takes a longer look back than usual, to the 1948 Antem Delahaye 148. It’s a sample from a rather forgotten niche, the small-scale coachbuilders who survived between 1945 and the onset of monococque construction.
The name indicates the car is a coach-built special, based on a chassis by Delahaye. Émile Delahaye founded his eponymous firm in 1894, in Tours, France. It survived until 1955. The model history is rather complex and I simply don’t have the patience to reliably boil it down for you**.
The 148 was a derivative of the 135, introduced before the war. The postwar 135 had styling by none other than Philipe Charbonneaux. A 3.6 litre in-line six powered the car, sending its efforts to the rear wheels. The car had three states of tune with one, two or three carburettors. The 148 had a 3.1m wheelbase, this wheelbase being intended for less sporty variants.
Not even two years since its European launch, Ford have got the magic markers out on the KA+. What can it all mean?
“The KA+ was introduced for customers in Europe as a spacious, well-equipped and value-for-money small car that offers excellent fuel-efficiency and fun-to-drive dynamics at an affordable price”. You have been reading the words of Ford’s press department before you write in to complain. A ‘Fiesta Minus’ with ‘milquetoast styling’ is what Driven to Write had to say on the matter in 2016.
“The Porsche is a two seat coupe which does have room in the back for extra token passengers, thanks to an ingenious pair of folding seats, but on anything but the shortest of journeys they would suffer. The front seats are, however, very comfortable, with high seat backs which offer plenty of support. They are beautifully finished and upholstered, and sensibly shaped and positioned, with good visibility all round: you can see both the front wings very clearly, so that pointing the car securely through corners and gaps becomes simplicity itself.
There are all kinds of pleasing little details, which show how much thought has gone into the original design and the improvements which have been added over the model’s lifetime. For instance, there is a knob under the dashboard which unfastens the petrol filler cap, but before the garage man can Continue reading “Catching Up, Part 2”
There’s little doubt. Toyota have a hit on their hands in the C-HR crossover. But what are the implications for its more reserved hatch sibling?
As even the dogs in the street know by now, the way of the Crossover is the path the European industry is hell-bent on pursuing. Decry it all we wish, the buying public appear to prefer the cut of its jib, its loftier driving position, its faint (if somewhat fraudulent) air of go-anywhere capability.
The automotive equivalent perhaps of a pair of Sketchers* trekking shoes, the marketing message exudes that ‘I’ve just emerged from my mindfulness class and now I’ll probably Continue reading “Doubt and Disbelief”
A few weeks ago I bought a copy of Octane. The edition lay around the house and I dipped into it a various moments. What did I discover?
Tuesday, in the railstation.I saw Octane and bought it along with the Interntional New York Times. I felt I needed to read more text on paper. The cover story first attracted my attention, a very Octane style of article where they discuss several generations of the same car. The first copy of Octane I bought, about eight years ago, dealt with the Maserati QP. This edition put the Bentley Continental under the spotlight. The cover showed a 1952 R-Type Fastback, the 2004 Continental and its successor.
I have to credit Octane for the high quality of the studio photography which placed the English white car in a dark setting. Charlie Magee, the snapper, did an excellent job of rendering the Continental as an almost other-worldly object. The interior photos had a believable aspect to them rather than the flat, overly-processed style that other magazines are favouring. If you look closely you can easily Continue reading “The Gongoozler”
As Ford readies its 2018 Euro-offerings, Driven to Write asks whether Henry’s Focus remains slightly askew?
In a Automotive News report this week, it was revealed that Ford will not unveil the new-generation Focus model at the Geneva show in March, electing to do so at a bespoke event the following month. The Ford spokesperson did not explain why this decision was taken (nor, it seems was the question asked) but it does suggest that Ford’s marketers believe they will Continue reading “Ford ReFocuses its Offer”
“An Experienced driver could be caught out by the Porsche 911 – it’s one of the nearest things to a racing car, says Stirling Moss.” That’s the intro to an article from Harper’s & Queen, a 1975 copy of which I found in a local “retro” styled bistro in my locale. Here is the rest of the text.
“The motor car has come in for quite a lot of criticism of late, and the most recent charge to be levelled against it that it squanders precious energy at a time when we can least afford it. Maybe this is the reason for a profound change in many people’s whole attitude to motoring. Continue reading “Catching Up”
Thirty years before Urus, Bertone envisaged a fashionable high-riding Lamborghini four-door. But it wasn’t an SUV – after all, they already made one of those.
Despite being largely associated with mid-engined supercars, Lamborghini remains something of an exception in automotive terms. Perhaps it’s a function of the marque’s beginnings as makers of farm machinery, but the abstract of Lamborghini appears more malleable than most. Debatable of course, but to a large extent, it’s possible to Continue reading “Monospace di Bertone”
To make up for the dreary news discussed in our earlier post, we can report this item.
Opel will export cars to Tunisia and Morocco. It seems to me that it would be a good idea if Opel could have a stab at the markets that GM denied it: Canada, the US and Australia. It might interest you to know that Opel already have a presence in South Africa. It would seem to me that selling cars in N Africa is a positive step but not a very positive step.
What are we to make of the news that Opel will not be exhibiting at the Geneva Salon in March? The announcement came on 16 January, just over six weeks before the show opens to the world’s media.
The official justification from new owners Groupe PSA is that “If there is no new product, then the brands won’t be there”. The under-performing PSA premium brand DS will also not be represented at Palexpo; that’s a distraction I’ll not pursue further.
The corporate excuse is unconvincing. The Grandland X has only recently gone on sale, likewise the Insignia GSi, drearily named but interestingly specified.
Occasionally I trawl randomly among the newsroom pages of various car manufacturers. What did I find this time?
The first marginally interesting snippet involves MG Cars. Despite it all, they are selling more and more cars albeit not many more cars.
“More than 4,440 new cars were registered by the iconic MG Motor UK brand in 2017, an increase of around 6% year-on-year, according to the latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released today (4th January 2018). In December alone, MG Motor UK achieved 100 additional unit sales over 2016 figures, thanks largely to the roll-out of the new MG ZS Compact-SUV. ”
Apart from contributing more than a few inventions of enormous importance and automobiles of superior significance, Fiat have also established themselves as true masters of the counterproductive facelift.
Italy unquestionably is a country of immense creative energy. More to the point, it is one of the hotbeds of automotive design and style, not to mention: taste.
And yet few marques have so comprehensively struggled to give its products a stylistic boost halfway through their respective productions runs as Fiat has. So much so, in fact, that describing any facelift effort as ‘Fiat bad’ acts as a fixed term denominating a particularly ill-advised attempt at refreshing a car’s design.
Have you noticed the overuse of the word “professional”?
It’s applied to high-spec products where there is little obvious reason why a “professional” might want or need anything different than everyone else. Apple sell a tablet labelled “Pro”. We have one at home. It works like my ‘phone except it can’t make calls. Chevrolet or GMC trucks may presently Continue reading “A Detail For Sunday: 2017 Ford Ranger”
Suspending his disbelief, Driven to Write asks whether Citroen’s claims for their Advanced Comfort® programme are worth their weight in hydraulic fluid.
Last October, Citroën announced a heavily revised C4 Cactus, intended not only to boost the fortunes of the established (and fading) model, but also to replace the moribund C4 hatch. As we know, in so doing, Citroën abandoned the original car’s distinctive and pleasingly unaggressive style, reverting to a less polarising, yet also more generic look. More grown-up, as the gentlemen of the press might put it.
The other day we were talking about the Renault 16 which led us to the Renault 21 which…
…led me to look for one for sale. Finding one I noticed the unhappy design of the nose cone, the plastic mask around the headlamp and containing the upper grille aperture. Here (below) are some other cars which demonstrate an attempt at rethinking the way the front fascia was handled. One of them really works – the Ford Sierra is utterly industrial design. And have you noticed the Dacia Duster uses the same concept but eschews the body-colour for the lamp panel? In fact the elegance of the concept is hidden by the Duster’s other fussy details.
I have done this theme before, I think – the new bit is the Renault 21 (the facelifted version). Interestingly (if you are like me), you’ll notice a difference between the Ford, Citroen and VW trio versus the R21. What is it?
Scanning through the ANE website I noticed what I thought was a case of mistaken identity.
The title of an article was about the incoming Audi A7, but, in my haste, my brain registered that the accompanying photo was of a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. Closer inspection revealed that my mind was playing tricks on me, but looking at photos of each car from the front three quarters made me feel better that it was a (fairly) easy mistake to make.
You wait decades and three motoring ‘big beasts’ relaunch at once.
Every movement has its icons and given where we are now I think we can probably describe the current SUV contagion as a movement. In terms of icons, the holy trinity of sports utility vehicular worship appears to consist of the Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender and Toyota Landcruiser. Just outside, but banging rather conspicuously at the door is Mercedes with its interloper G-Wagen.
The original Willys MB Jeep is known to all – man, woman and small dog. Created as a military vehicle during the second World war, it entered full-scale production in 1941, going on to Continue reading “Three Lions”
Join these dots: It has worked well for Tesla, this big, five-door luxury car idea. Lexus has been able to sell hybrid V-8s since 2008. Land Rover has been competing for the top-drawer luxury market for at least twenty years or more. Five doors and luxury are not strangers to each other. Sales of conventional luxury cars are not what they were, not unless the Panamera nameplate is involved.
An encounter with the Ka’s more glamourous cousin has prompted Driven to Write to seek the word on the Street.
The 2002 Ford StreetKa was first shown at the 2000 Turin motor show as a concept, but its roots go back to 1996, when Ghia presented the Saetta, a teaser for that year’s Ka hatchback, but also the StreetKa’s direct forebear.
Sometimes there are cars that seem not to merit a whole day to themselves, especially not a Sunday. This is one of them: the 2011 Lancia Thema nee Chrysler 300.
It featured recently as one of my lame “guess the car” teasers. Did you know that this vehicle (as a Chrysler) has been in production since 2011? Or more, honestly, since 2004**? That makes this quite a coelacanth. The Thema left Lancia’s catalogues in 2014 though. The Chrysler version still soldiers on somewhere. Continue reading “A Photo For Monday”
This morning I came across two of these on my drive to work. Long forgotten in my mind, once I’d recalled them as being Toledos (should that be Toledi? maybe not), I realised how good they looked in today’s traffic.
The Mk2 Seat Toledo preceded the more popular Mk1 Leon hatch to market in 1998 and remained in its catalogues until 2004. Styling was attributed to Giugiaro and it does look credibly like one of his from that era. It was built on the same PQ34 platform as the Mk4 Golf/ Bora, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia.
Everyone loves the styling of the Mk4 Golf, and I have to say I was always partial to the original Leon – it having echoes of the Alfasud – but this is a really nice small saloon (4-door notchback, if you want to be precise) with the rear pillar blending smoothly into the rear wing and boot panel. If I could criticise it, I’d say that Continue reading “A Toledo Triumph”
Recently I failed to challenge the DTW readership with a “mystery car“. I might has well have taken a photo of the car’s badge you guessed it so soon: Renault 16. What’s so good about them?
Normally one must track a 16 down at a car show or find one for sale if you want to view an example. Seeing such a car by chance is an event and one I didn’t have much time to savour, alas. These photos (above) got into my iPhone in under three minutes, something of a pity as the car merits careful examination – three minutes is just not enough.
No sticklers for current affairs are we, (spin cycles etc…) but given that it’s my first dedicated 2018 post, I thought I’d confound expectations. Mine, as much as yours.
Earlier this week, Autocar’s reverse-cassandra, [this analogy doesn’t entirely hold water, but bear with me] spoke to Ford Motor Company CEO, Jim Hackett, obtaining assurances that the American car giant has no intention of following General Motors out of the European car market. “I have in my hand a piece of paper…”, Steve Cropley didn’t quite say.
We have a chance here to examine the implications and otherwise of Citroën’s announcement about a forthcoming large saloon.
Our good friends at Autocropley reported this the day before yesterday but the message only turned up in my in-box yesterday. I opened the link with trembling fingers. First, there will be a new flagship saloon which Citroën would like us to see as “distinctive”. In line with Citroën’s current self-identity, the car should be laden with technology and be a design that is comfort led. Making this possible is the Chinese market where saloons still thrive.
We should see the car in 2019 or 2020 which means they are working on it now. And should someone from Citroën chance upon this article, please ensure the car has a decent ashtray and manual transmission plus a properly large boot. Linda Jackson, reports Autocropley, says the car will Continue reading “If There Could Be a Sign, if There Could Be A Sign”
Our final retrospective waltz in this series lands in 1957.
1957’s Sweet Smell of Success was an unusual film for its era, made by a director better known for lighthearted comedies, casting its two leads against type and portraying a seedy, rapacious twilight world behind the gloss of celebrity culture. In that respect, it was a very modern film, but it was one the public were not ready for, dying on its feet in cinemas.
How are the papery ones doing? I had a look at the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s nice website to examine the state of the UK car magazine market.
The UK periodical industry owns and runs the ABC as a means to provide an independent (from one publisher) source of data on readership. That is then used to justify ad rates on the basis of the circulation of the journals seeking to sell space. The ABC describes itself as follows: “We deliver industry-agreed standards for media brand measurement across print, digital and events. We also verify data, processes and good practice to industry-agreed standards”.
It it takes a lot to get one of the most revered models in automotive history to the brink of extinction. Yet this generation of Mercedes SL’s got what it takes.
Despite having possessed neither eponymous quality in ages, the Mercedes Sportlich-Leicht has been a car for the ages, and, on certain occasions, even age-defining.
The original 300SL was one of the first motor cars ever to be described as a ‘classic’ and remains exactly that. Its Pagoda (W113) progenitor still ranks among the most elegant vehicles of all time and established the concept of the European open top boulevardier. The indefatigable R107 SL acted as proof of life of the sophisticated European convertible from 1971 to 1989 and became a fashion statement almost a decade after its launch. Continue reading “AUTOpsy: Mercedes-Benz SL (R231)”
Ah 1967: The Summer of love. Sgt. Pepper. Twiggy. Bond.
But leaving popular culture aside, the mood music was more sombre. In the UK, land speed record holder, Donald Campbell died attempting to break the water record on Lake Coniston in his Bluebird K3 jetboat. While back on terra firma the advent of the Road Safety Act set a maximum permitted blood alcohol level, allowing breathalyser tests to be performed on drivers for the first time.
My mobile telephone acts like a visual notebook thanks to its lousy camera. Here are some notes.
Apart from its capacity to capture images, my telephone isn’t better than my actual notebook (a Silvine spiral bound item). The photos turn out like Kodak prints – brown and flat. I hate them. What I’d like is a fast, very small printer capable of producing colour-fast images on self-adhesive paper (5×4 cm) so I could Continue reading “Notebook”
Just how flexible is Tesla’s battery technology? Why aren’t they doing more with it? Why?
The Tesla Model S has been on sale for quite a while now: Since 2012 (USA) and 2013 (EU). By all accounts it is a pretty decent vehicle. We have issues here with its appearance though. I’ve always maintained that it’s too conservative a shape in relation to the technology under the skin.
It may very well have been a design that would have been almost contemporary in 2007. It’s now 2018 and the car still looks the same but 2007 is now a really long way back. Actually I don’t even think it would have looked good in 2007 either. There were several much more interesting designs around then that didn’t scare the horses. Water under the Zoobruecke. What I want to ask here today is how one canContinue reading “Hercules’ Shears”
Whether it was Liz’s Jubilee, BL’s annus horriblis, the death of Elvis, the first space shuttle flight or the beginning of the Star Wars juggernaut, 1977 was a year of transitions. Even the music business reflected this, with Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine and divorce epic, Rumours topping the album charts while David Bowie (now off the white powder) offered the icy sheen of Low, a record which suggested a future (if not necessarily the future).
Generally I prefer to avoid memoirs of car ownership except en passant. I will try to do so here when having a small look at the afterlife of the 1984 Buick Century.
The reason I am in any way concerned with a car like this is that for a year and a half I owned such a vehicle, almost exactly like the one in the main photo. It differed only in that it had plate sized-rust patches on both front doors.