Theme : Speed – Introduction

June’s Theme : The Editor Posts Some Thoughts on Speed

Aston DB4We get used to thinking that we, meaning whoever amongst us are young and fit enough to command the technology, are probably the best informed and highest achieving people in history. The knowledge and achievements of our forebears, though impressive perhaps in the context of their age, pales in absolute comparison with our own. Such is the arrogance of The Present and, though it might not have always been this way, it seems set to remain.

Continue reading “Theme : Speed – Introduction”

Theme : Badging – A Badge Can Speak a Thousand Words

We look for subliminal messages.

Chevrons

A few years ago, brand consultants Landor redesigned the Citroën logo to be more rounded and, in their words, ‘liquid’. That is a strange adjective, since the chevrons famously represented the helical gear teeth that André Citroën patented and whose success he built his company on. In their current form the chevrons no longer seem to suggest precise technology and, therefore, it could be argued that Landor has done its job well in capturing the essence of 21st Century Citroën.

Continue reading “Theme : Badging – A Badge Can Speak a Thousand Words”

Death Has a Revolving Door 2 : MG Revive Sportscar Revival Plans

If you should tire of Alfa Romeo’s latest new plans, Morris Garages (MG) have perhaps a more credible alternative set of ambitions reported today, a new roadster.

2014 MG Icon concept: they are not building this
2012 MG Icon concept: they are not building this

Coincidental to my recent posting on returns from the grave, MG has announced a plan to revive its MG roadsters, with a view to returning to the US market. Edmunds’ journalist Richard Bremner reported that SAIC, owners of MG, have revealed this much without any supporting illustrations of the mooted car**.  Continue reading “Death Has a Revolving Door 2 : MG Revive Sportscar Revival Plans”

Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic

This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen´s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981.

In this article I examine the change-over from metal and glass to all-plastic interiors that occurred in the mid 70s.

1971 Morris Marina interior. Spacious and simple.
1971 Morris Marina interior. Spacious and simple.

This thread looks at a period of transition as injection moulding, safety legislation and changing taste in colours acted to markedly alter how car interiors looked. The late 70s was the period when the dashboard became seen as an integrated whole rather than a set of items screwed to a bulkhead. Of course, Citroen’s SM got there in 1971 but did it without injection moulding on the scale possible in 1981. Continue reading “Transitions : Car Interiors as They Turned Plastic”

Death Has a Revolving Door

Driven To Write has some news for anyone who has been reading the UK motoring press.

1979 Saab 900

Far from being “an undiscovered bourne from whom no traveller returns” (copyright W. Shakespeare 1599-1602), it appears death is a place car brands can pop over to and come back from much like an obscure place with an out-of-the-way airport served by Ryanair. I think Saab is dead but it might not be. Or it might be. It died spiritually under GM, it died again physically, was reborn under Spyker but soon expired. National Electric Vehicles revived the firm in 2012.

Continue reading “Death Has a Revolving Door”

What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?

This being, unofficially, the Fiat/FCA themed month, I feel like shedding some light on Fiat’s current styling policy and the man responsible for it. 

lorenzo-ramaciotti

And when I say “shedding some light”, I actually mean pointing out all the dark and shadowy areas that currently make up Fiat’s styling. More questions will be asked than answered, inevitably.

Superficially, the reorganisation of Fiat’s different Centri Stile in the wake of the company’s Marchionnisation seems to have been a straightforward example of streamlining. And, unlike the most famous jumper lover’s financial and fiscal shenanigans, this move appears to be both easily graspable and logical.  Continue reading “What Exactly Is Lorenzo Ramaciotti Doing?”

Theme : Badging – Emblem of Malaise

A badge can often tell you a lot more than what exactly it is you’re driving behind…

0811_05_z+1966_lancia_fulvia_coupe+badge_and_taillightThe badging on the rear of this first series Lancia Fulvia coupé is rather lovely. It resembles a signature and perfectly encapsulates Lancia’s quality ethos at the time. This wasn’t a cheap car and the badge told you this with elegance and eloquence.

Continue reading “Theme : Badging – Emblem of Malaise”

Theme : Badging – False Economies 2

Where not to save money

01c
I’ll begin this badge-themed item with a nod to Eoin’s sterling work on the future of FCA. Can I ask people to note the rather cheap ugliness of the FCA logo? The letters seem not to be aligned. But more relevant is the flaked badge of an Alfa Romeo 156, a rich metaphor if ever one was needed.

Continue reading “Theme : Badging – False Economies 2”

FCA – State of the Empire – Part Two

The second of a two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them. Part two – There will be blood:

0094f_100mm_raised_soft_plastic_badgeSelling Ferrari
FCA’s presentation made a point of telling the financial and automotive worlds just how much Marchionne is prepared to accept for the sale of Ferrari, suggesting the fabled Marenello concern is for sale; despite firm denials from within FCA itself. Some might say that he would be insane to do so – the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ being probably the most valuable automotive brand in the universe right now.

But look at it another way. If we believe the hype, everybody wants to Continue reading “FCA – State of the Empire – Part Two”

FCA – State of the Empire – Part One

A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.

A_Pantone_VersionNow that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.

alfa romeo

Alfa Romeo’s revival
If Marchionne is to be believed, the world is breathlessly awaiting the revival of Alfa Romeo, and while he’s been trying to Continue reading “FCA – State of the Empire – Part One”

Sergio’s Latest Fantasy Franchise

Sergio unveils his elaborate masterplan for FCA’s future and it’s a staggering work of fiction. 

1_29
Dear lord, make it stop!

Last week Sergio Marchionne kept a selection of the world’s auto journalists captive for a ten hour marathon outlining his vision for the next five years at the newly merged FCA. Those who managed to sit through the numbing PowerPoint presentations, the staggering level of detail, the sheer grinding onslaught of facts, statistics, projections, flying unicorns and outright fantasies probably needed more than a few restorative shandies to steady their shattered nerves.

Continue reading “Sergio’s Latest Fantasy Franchise”

2002 Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 Review

Lovely and wrong: Richard Herriott assesses Lancia’s former flagship.

2002_1_Lancia Thesis profile

When the Thesis was launched in 2002, Lancia wanted a flagship to re-position the brand as a maker of convincing luxury cars, an Italian Mercedes if you like. The Thesis’ predecessor, the Kappa, had been less successful than the Thema, despite receiving plaudits for its refinement, packaging and capable chassis. The Thesis was supposed to recover ground lost during the Kappa’s production run and also to re-affirm the company´s tradition of top-drawer refinement and visual elegance. Continue reading “2002 Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 Review”

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.

2012 Ford Focus rear 1

This 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 “2014 Ford Focus 1.6 CDTi Econetic Review”

Window Shopping For A Ferrari

What’s it like to wander around the on-line show room of Ferrari?

aaa_Ferarri page 1

Recently I´ve felt curious about the customer experience for prospective Ferrari owners. You don’t need to be out of your pyjamas to visit Ferrari’s website so I thought I’d see what happened and what I’d feel like if I did a little virtual tyre kicking. What I found is described below. Continue reading “Window Shopping For A Ferrari”

Reconvening the Committee

Arguably the most misunderstood Jaguar of all time, Driven to Write seeks once and for all to put the ‘committee design’ assertion to rest as we examine the defamation of the XJ-S.

Jaguar-XJS-Red-Strip-1280x960%5B3%5D
Image: The Telegraph

In September 1975 the newly nationalised British Leyland conglomerate celebrated the Jaguar XJ-S’ launch at Longbridge, the traditional home of its volume car division. A worse time to launch a 150-mph grand turismo is difficult to imagine, to say nothing of the chosen setting. The venue was a calculated statement of power, British Leyland ensuring Jaguar’s beleaguered management and workforce knew exactly who was in charge. Continue reading “Reconvening the Committee”

XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 5)

We convene the committee one final time and examine the defamation of the XJ-S.

Image via Jaguar Heritage
Image: Jaguar Heritage

Widely seen as the most outspoken and irreverent of the UK’s automotive titles, Car was the journal most automotive journalists and commentators looked to and emulated. It’s evident the ‘committee-design’ assertion emanated from this source, which illustrates that journalists are as prone to suggestion as anyone. The press subsequently appropriated this assertion which over time morphed into established fact. Car editor Mel Nichols made his views clear in October 1975, stating; Continue reading “XJ-S: Reconvening the Committee (Part 5)”

Theme : Badging – Written on the Body

Do car badges have intrinsic value? Driven to Write investigates.

alfa_159_ti__sportwagon

We all misread the obvious sometimes. Our world is frequently confusing, as are the brands and symbols that surround us. The car badge or emblem embodies a narrative – an entire marque history distilled into a small piece of moulded plastic.

In truth we don’t really see badges on cars – our eyes note them before storing them away as extraneous information. It is only when they are conspicuous by their absence that we Continue reading “Theme : Badging – Written on the Body”

Theme : Badging – False Economy

What a badge can say.

2005 Ford Galaxy

In line with the theme of the month I will post this eloquent symbol of excessive cost-cutting. The badge symbolises the company. If the firm can´t spend enough so its symbol endures, you have to wonder about their commitment to the rest of the car. Of course, the likelihood is that this is just an unforeseen consequence of a minor change in paint formula. However, many people will feel that this says as much about this brand as needs to be said. For brand managers, this sort of thing is the worst PR, worse even than the message sent out by curling window rubbers and blisters of rust on the rear wheel arch lip. I can only remember seeing one other badge so badly weathered in so short a time, and that was the badge on Alfa Romeo´s 156. 

If All the World Were Paper and All the Sea Were Ink…

What if the Golf wasn’t the “average” car?

1984 Golf
It is always useful to consider a counterfactual. For example, by asking what would have happened if Franz Ferdinand had survived his assassination attempt, we ask about how avoidable the first World War was. Another counterfactual might be to ask what if REM had disbanded after their drummer Bill Berry retired? That is to ask what was the importance of Bill Berry to the band. The answer to that second question is easier than the first. REM should have disbanded. Berry’s drumming was as integral as Michael Stipe’s vocals.

Continue reading “If All the World Were Paper and All the Sea Were Ink…”

Theme : Badging

May’s Theme  – The Editor’s Introduction

Porsche Badge

I still use the same tailor my Father first took me to as a boy. Their jackets have a small label sewn into the inner lining on the right breast, showing their name but nothing else. Were I to ask them to put the label on the outside, they would be aghast. But they are an old fashioned firm and, I fear, not much longer for this World. Although my preferences have never changed, those of the rest of the World appear to have. It might seem understandable that cheap sports clothing should incorporate free advertising for the maker, since it could be argued that it subsidises the cost, but what seems stranger is that it has become acceptable for an expensive fashion brand to do the same. Don’t their customers object to being walking billboards, or are they simply boasting?

Continue reading “Theme : Badging”

Another in a Long Line: Lancia Kappa Coupé (1997-2000)

Mistakes from which one can learn come in forms such as these.

Lancia Kappa seen in the Black Forest, Easter 2014

About once a year I visit a relative in a very small village on the south fringe of the Black Forest. Every time I do, I see a different Lancia Kappa coupé. But they only made about 3000 of these cars and production ceased 14 years ago. I assume then that the region in which the car was seen has an unusual density of the vehicles. Continue reading “Another in a Long Line: Lancia Kappa Coupé (1997-2000)”