Cars I Can’t Write About 3: 2014 VW Passat

Some cars are gob-stoppers. I can’t bring myself to do more than glance at them much less expend any breath. Here’s one: the 2014 VW Passat.

2014 Passat collage

So far I have picked a shopping trolley and a sportscar in my excursion through the list of cars I can’t write about. Keen observers of my output will say this is because I am an enthusiast for saloon cars. You can infer from this a low-self esteem if you like, or you can imply a liking for four-door cars from mainstream makers is an automotive version of a taste for “reader’s wives”. To deal with the second argument, I present the current VW Passat. Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 3: 2014 VW Passat”

Cars I Can’t Write About 2: Porsche

Some cars defy one’s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. Here’s another, a Porsche of some type.

2014 Porsche collage

There was a 1970s example of one of these things parked on the road today. They are very rare around my district. I chose to look at a Vectra parked one space ahead of it. I’ve always admired the 2002 model’s headlamp design. When I was in Germany at Easter I saw a rare high-spec 2002 saloon in green metallic that made me Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 2: Porsche”

Cars I Can’t Write About 1: 1996-2002 Mazda Demio

Some cars defy one’s capacity to describe or discuss them except in the most general terms. One of them is the 1996 Mazda Demio.

1996 Mada demio

Here at DTW we spend a lot of time staring into the walls trying to fight off the ideas that spring up. The problem is that there are more ideas than time to do them justice. I’ve just blown three hours of my life penning a tract about Buicks and Opels. This was based on half a thought about the Opel Astra saloon that nobody cares about. How then can I Continue reading “Cars I Can’t Write About 1: 1996-2002 Mazda Demio”

Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan

How do we get from China to Warren, Michigan via Rüsselsheim? By Astra, of course.

2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China
2012 Buick Verano: engineered in Germany and the US and sold in China (in some form)

Why does Opel matter to GM? How about sales of 500,000 cars a year in China and continued survival of Buick in the US.

In the late 70s the science journalist James Burke had an engaging series of programmes called Connections. It traced the links, innovations and the important contingencies that led from the distant past to the technology that we take for granted around us, such as plastic, for example. Behind the invention of this material lay the story of how the 17th Century Dutch preferred not to Continue reading “Cross-Currents: From Tsingtao to Rüsselsheim to Michigan”

1986 Volvo 360 GLT Review

Pantomime Horses : Just how good is the 1986 Volvo 360 GLT?

1986 Volvo 360 GLT

by Roderick Darndon-Dramb. Photography by Bart Chappel. From “Autocarriage & Performance Drivercar”  (March 1986).

The advertising says this is the Volvo that thinks it’s a Porsche. Clearly Volvo wants us to see this car as the driver’s choice. The people at Volvo have lost their minds. The 360’s aerodynamics remain submerged below the bottom of the league. The exterior is reminiscent of the Seagram Building rather than an F-40 jet. This is not a Porker.

Continue reading “1986 Volvo 360 GLT Review”

History Repeating: XJ40 Part 1

Phase One – 1972-1975: A New Jag Generation. We examine the landscape within Jaguar as the initial XJ40 concept coalesced.

XJ6brochure
The definitive Jaguar? Image: Jaglovers

XJ40 underwent several distinct phases in its path to production, the first of which began with the 1968 launch of the XJ saloon, a car upon whose shoulders Jaguar would unknowingly place the next 18 years of its existence. The XJ was a superb car, its excellence the sum of several factors. The careful honing of proven hardware, a gifted development team, Jaguar’s V12 engine, and the appliance of stylistic genius. It would be the pinnacle of Sir William Lyons’ vision but as a new decade dawned, it was necessary to plan for its successor.

Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 1”

Death Has A Revolving Door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen

Daihatsu’s Japanese production declines for the first time in 8 months…

2014 Daihatsu Copen concept
2014 Daihatsu Copen concept

…but production overseas increased to compensate. And generally sales are down overall. Daihatsu gave up on Europe a few years back so the news that the Copen sportscar is to be revived may not do so very much to improve the sales picture. Still, it’s nice to imagine. What sort of a range does the Copen fit into? There is the Terios hatchback in five and seven seater guise, the Sirion hatchback and the Gran Max van which also comes as a pick-up. That make the Copen something of an outsider in a range of very practical vehicles, but it is still at least as small as the others. Continue reading “Death Has A Revolving Door 3: 2014 Daihatsu Copen”

Something Rotten In Denmark: 1986 Peugeot 505

Sold in large numbers and once part of the corporate car-park, the 505 is now a rarity. But here is one example that almost looks attractive. But looks deceive. 

1986 Peugeot 505

PSA launched the 505 in 1979 with the purpose of providing a product in their middle ranks to replace the venerable 504. What the ’05 succeeded in doing was killing off interest in the 604 which had been on sale and doing quite well since 1976. The 505 was very slightly smaller and about 30% cheaper than the 604 and lot easier on the eye; the main differences between the two cars were that the newcomer lacked the messy dashboard and thirsty V6.

The 505 range offered all the engines the 604 could and should have had. What Peugeot forgot to do was to Continue reading “Something Rotten In Denmark: 1986 Peugeot 505”

Speed – VELOcity

In praise of the racing bicycle

smithfieldvelo
Image: Driven to Write

The sensation of speed is often as much a function of proximity as it is of exposure. The less there is between you and the road below, the more immersive the experience, as any Caterham owner will tell you as he attempts to draw your attention from the rain soaked, hand-tooled moccasins he knew he shouldn’t have worn. But really, if you want to experience speed at its most unadulterated, the racing bicycle stands supreme.

Continue reading “Speed – VELOcity”

1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo

Design Footnote: somewhere inside Ford, someone nodded quietly to the firm’s past.

2005 Ford Mondeo
2005 Ford Mondeo

A few months back, while studying the parked cars in my area, I noticed that there was something deeper to the design of late-model Ford Mondeo Mk2s. Not very many cars have a solution that avoids both a horizontal and a vertical wraparound at the front end. The 2005 Mondeo has a design where the strongest line runs down the edge of the wing, down the lights and then goes horizontal under the valence, requiring a twist from forward to sideways mediated by a vertical descent. Continue reading “1965 Ford Taunus Versus 2005 Ford Mondeo”

Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof

How much fun do you really get out of driving like you stole it?

1990 peugeot-205-

Speed is a measurable quantity. One of the characteristics of the modern age is the increasing dominance of quantity over quality. I see the two as dependent parameters, as necessary as the left and right wing of a jet. In the spirit of the times motoring journalism in recent years has tended to Continue reading “Theme : Speed – Quantity and Quality Thereof”

History Repeating – The Tragedy of Jaguar’s XJ40

A new Jerusalem, or nothing but the same old story? In this series of articles, we examine XJ40’s turbulent conception and ask, was this the last Jaguar?

Jaguar XJ40_04 (1)
Image: Jaguar Heritage

Billed at launch as the Jag without tears; a high-tech culmination of an unprecedented level of proving in some of the world’s most hostile environments, XJ40 represented a new beginning for an embattled marque. As much the story of Jaguar’s dogged resistance as it is of the car itself, XJ40’s 22-year career encapsulates the most tumultuous period in the company’s history.

The tragedy of XJ40 has several strands. Throughout the torrid ‘Seventies, XJ40 became Jaguar’s talisman, the one hope a demoralised corps could cling to when there appeared to be no future. Central to this were efforts of successive engineering chiefs to maintain the marque’s identity, but success would come at bitter cost.

XJ40’s lengthy gestation meant the end result was viewed by some as a disappointment, yet this belies the enormous efforts made to ensure XJ40 modernised, yet maintained marque traditions. The first truly modern Jaguar, the model was critically acclaimed upon release, but the car’s reputation became tarnished by an early reputation for build and durability issues it never quite overcame.

Despite being the best-selling XJ series of all, XJ40 today remains something of an outlier within the official Jaguar narrative, only latterly being appreciated for its finer qualities and for its status as arguably the most ambitious and technically pure Jaguar saloon ever.

It could also be said to mark the point when Jaguar’s stylists ceased to look forward, resulting in a nostalgic philosophy Ford’s interventionist management subsequently wrung dry with the XJ40 series’ ultimate successor – 2003’s X350 series.

In fact, parallels between XJ40 and its Ford-funded successor run deep. Both were intended to be technological flagships for both Jaguar and their parent. Both attempted to marry technical innovation with traditional styling. Both failed to stabilise the business and indirectly precipitated further changes of ownership.

“…It’s all just a little bit of history repeating…”, Shirley Bassey once purred over a Jaguar TV advert, and this lyric contains a truism, because for Jaguar the past refuses to stay buried for long.

Continue reading this article

More on XJ40

High Concept – 1992 Ghia Focus

So many car design concepts intrigue and delight upon initial viewing but date as quickly. A notable exception to this truism sits below :

92ghia_ford_focus_09

The 1992 Ghia Focus. First displayed at that year’s Turin Motor show to rapturous acclaim, it was a compact barchetta style roadster, and it’s radical form language prefigured a new direction for Ford. Its influence however, would ultimately extend further beyond Ford’s Dearborn, Dunton, Merkenich and Turin studios.

Continue reading “High Concept – 1992 Ghia Focus”

Something Rotten in Denmark : 1962 DKW Junior

You’ve come a long way, baby. So goes the cliche. How far then?

1962 DKW

Glostrup Cars in Denmark are selling this two-stroke body-on-frame fossil for just under €10,000. Introduced in 1959, the Juniors (renamed F11 or F12) were discontinued in 1965 when VW bought the firm, ending DKW’s post-war association with Mercedes*. These diminutive DKWs were built in Ingolstadt, at a new factory. The car’s run ended when it became clear that it was just not up to facing the competition presented by VW’s Beetle and Opel’s smaller cars (possibly the 1962 Kadett). Continue reading “Something Rotten in Denmark : 1962 DKW Junior”

Social Signifiers

Which cars are for today’s ophthalmologists, vets and professors of Medieval law? 

For Prof. Castiglione
For Prof. Castiglione

About three decades ago certain makers sold cars for easily identifiable groups in society. Saabs were for well-paid university lecturers. Citroen could appeal to the Francophile and arty middle-class man. Lancia sold to intellectuals and business men who probably saw their work as a vocation. Humber appealed to bank managers of the bigger branches. But today, these brands are gone or unrecognisable Continue reading “Social Signifiers”

Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)

A quick drive in Maserati’s ultimate saloon.

photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I had the chance to experience a car I consider to be among the most disappointing of recent years – the successor to the flawed yet glorious Quattroporte V. Gone is the lithe elegance of Ken Okuyama’s styling, making way for considerably more competitive technology, as well as simply gargantuan proportions. Continue reading “Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)”

Audi – Always the Pretender?

And What Is Wrong With Putting the Engine in Front of the Wheels?Auto Union Type C

Audi are in danger of becoming the Phil Collins of the petrolhead world, an act that even people who know little about music like to cite as being a bit off. Speaking as someone who can, hand on heart, swear that he has no murky Genesis related skeletons in his youthful musical vinyl rack and hopes he’ll never Continue reading “Audi – Always the Pretender?”

A Question of Form

Has Centro Stile Fiat ever produced a design of lasting significance?

centro stile alfa romeo
Centro Stile Alfa Romeo (as was).

This is the question I found myself asking following a recent Driven to Write piece on Lorenzo Ramaciotti – (which I urge you to read). Because like many, I held firm to the view that Turin’s fabled carrozzerie were responsible for every design worthy of note. On the other hand, memory can sometimes prove a faulty co-driver, so I did what any self-respecting autophile would do at this point and revisited the Fiat group’s styling back catalogue in a quest for answers. So what I offer here is a list of significant Fiats of the last 50 years and who is believed responsible for their styling.  Continue reading “A Question of Form”

1961 Fiat 2300 S Coupe : A Short Film

While reading about the Humber Super Snipe and its competitors I stumbled across this.

Fiat 2300S Coupe

It’s a very nicely filmed piece about a Fiat 2300S and its owner, Pierantonio Micciarelli. I have to say that the man’s elegant dress sense made me yearn to be Italian. They do know how to choose their threads. But beyond that, this (for me) forgotten coupé is superbly presented and discussed with considerable fluency by the lucky fellow who is its custodian. This is another of those cars that evokes dusk drives around the Cap Ferrat.