As Simon has pointed out in his excellent introduction, there was a time when information did not exist at your fingertips. Back then, you had to go out and find it or, if you wanted it to come to you, you needed to invest in as much printed reference material as you could afford. As an 11 year old, I had not yet discovered the world of motoring books, and it’s unlikely that my pocket money could have supported such an addiction, so what I knew of cars was what I picked up from a knowledgeable friend of my parents who was restoring a Bentley 3 Litre (the sort of thing that people did in their garages back then) who loaned me about ten years back issues of Motor Sport and what I read in the pages of Autocar, which came through the letterbox once a week.
Some of us smoke. Some of us don’t. Some want to smoke and can’t. All of us here drive and have ash or small coins to store somewhere. This means we all have some interest in ashtrays in cars.
As regular members here know, I drive an elderly Citroen. Apart from a graunchy gearchange and dangerously pointy doors, it’s the ashtray that causes me the most dissatisfaction. The ashtray is well sized and illuminated by a nice green lamp that creates a ghostly wonderland of cigar ash as I travel about the land under the cover of darkness. I’d call this a selling point.
The Opel Zafira Tourer went on sale in late 2011 as an addition to the Opel family, rather than a replacement for the existing Zafira.
That remains on sale as a cheaper, smaller MPV, albeit in facelifted form. DTW gained access to a Zafira Tourer Ecoflex, with a 2.0 diesel engine fitted with stop/start technology. Read on for a short review…The Zafira does such a good job it is hard to write about the car´s demerits without seeming to make too much of rather small details. All the good points can fly past unnoticed since getting it right is often just a way to go unnoticed.
Almost three decades ago, a couple of cheapskate film producers believed they could whisk the quintessential American superhero to Buckinghamshire and people wouldn’t notice. Now Daimler AG is following their example.
Back in the late 1970s, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were the undisputed moguls of Israeli cinema, thanks mainly to the success of their Lemon Popsicle series of raunchy comedies. By the early 1980s, they wanted to enter the big leagues, which meant entering the US market, big time. Golan/Globus invested serious amounts of money in order Continue reading “Superman In Milton Keynes”
Audi has previewed its new styling direction. It looks a lot like the old styling direction.
Based on the cumulative reaction to Audi’s new design direction embodied by the recent Prologue concept, Marc Lichte and his designers may have considerably more work to do if Audi is not to Continue reading “Drawing Restraint”
If you’re going to have a mid-life crisis, at least get a decent set of wheels.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in his forties has a higher than average propensity to some form of mid-life introspection. As we know, the clichéd route to self-actualisation ranges from an inadvisable tattoo, to an inappropriate affair with a younger member of whichever gender he’s attracted to. Some choose to experiment with various derivations of the above. The more conventional opt for a sportscar or convertible. After all, just because you’re in the throes of a life event doesn’t mean you have to be original about it.
How does £208 per litre sound? I’ve been looking through the spec sheets again.
We know that the CLA is a front-wheel drive vehicle, related to the A-class which is now essentially MB’s offering in the Golf/Focus/Astra sector. The C-class is a monument in the automotive firmament, with roots going back to the rear-wheel drive 190E of the ’80s. That car was the first sign that Mercedes was interested in capitalising on its prestige by bringing their quality down to a smaller class of car than they had been offering up to that point. Continue reading “What’s the Difference Between a Mercedes CLA and a Mercedes C-class?”
“Vive La Difference!” Archie Vicar compares two new products battling it out in the family sector – France’s Simca 1307, and Britain’s Chrysler Alpine.
From The Motoring Weekly Gazette, October 1976. Photography by Terry Loftholdingswood. Owing to a processing error resulting in mishandled transparencies, stock photos have been used.
All of a sudden there are two entirely new cars fresh on the market to rival the Ford Cortina, the Vauxhall Cavalier and the ancient Renault 16. From Coventry, by way of America comes the Chrysler Alpine nee 150: good day, sir!, or should that read howdy? From France, we say bonjour to the Simca 1307. There would appear to be something for everyone’s taste here, I say.Continue reading “1976 Simca 1307, Chrysler Alpine/150 Review”
Auto & Design is not quite a book, but it is printed matter and it’s not an advertisement**.
For anyone interested in getting some (but not much) insight into the car design process, you can take out a subscription to Auto & Design, one of two long-running automotive design journals. This one hails from Italy and is written in both English and Italian. The other is Car Design, which is Japanese and slightly more technical and academic in its style. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Auto And Design”
DTW has often noted that the Koreans, in the form of Kia and Hyundai, have been selling very competitive products in Europe. But what is happening with European cars in the Korean market?
The New York Times reported that Koreans will soon be spending more on imported cars than they earn exporting vehicles. The situation is not symmetrical. While mainstream European brands have probably lost most to the Koreans’ competitive edge, in Korean it is the “prestige” brands that have thrived. The main reason for the change in the mix of cars sold in Korea is a trade agreement dating from 2011. Additionally, Koreans are less shy about buying foreign cars. In the past a major disincentive was that foreign cars were often vandalised. Continue reading “The Turning of Tables: European Car Sales Grow in Korea”
“Hatchback of Notre Dame” – In this transcript the respected motor-correspondent, Mr Archie Vicar, dons his beret to try the new Renault “Sixteen”.
From Driving Illustrated May 1965. Photos by Mr Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.
Olive oil and garlic in the kitchen, filterless Gitanes in his pocket and a pair of slip-on shoes. We all know the fellow. He likes his chicken chasseur and, in the late evening, Jacque Brel croons on his stereophonic record player. Coffee for him, never good old tea. Heaven forbid if the coffee is powdered. Not for this chap a splendid Humber, a stout Riley or even a fine Rover. Such motor cars are not sufficiently sophisticated, too British. Since 1955 the only car for Monsiuer Different has been a Citroen, usually the DS, fitted with its dreadfully overwrought hydropneumatic suspension, fibreglass roof and marshmallow chairs. Continue reading “1965 Renault 16 Review”
The phrase ‘privacy glass’ has always concerned me. Do you have a right to privacy when you are on the public road? Despite my not always restrained driving style, I get on pretty well with my fellow road users. The reason is that I acknowledge my errors and praise other people’s politeness. If someone seems to stop to let me through, even if I suspect they might be dropping someone off or that they are just stopping because the sight of me swinging round the corner and accelerating towards the contended space is too much to bother dealing with, I always wave and smile as though they have done me a fine favour. And I like it when I am on the receiving end. In both cases, I don’t fool myself that we have established a lasting bond, but it’s just a simple acknowledgment that we both share the road and that one of us has taken what the other has been graceful enough to give. Continue reading “Glass : It’s Clear to See”
Now that even modest compact cars can be equipped with stitched leather look for almost every surface imaginable, the upper echelons have to up the cow skin ante – to, in some cases, dubious effect.
The recent troubles at Aston Martin have almost overshadowed an event that has become a bit of a rarity in recent times: the unveiling of a rather attractive car coming from Gaydon. The automobile in question, the Lagonda Taraf, is – despite its lavish grille – the most restrained and, it could be argued, tasteful design coming from Gaydon’s most prestigious car maker.
The Taraf’s surfacing is uncluttered, its detailing not overwhelming and the overall proportions are spot-on. An unexpected, yet welcome surprise, one might conclude – before setting sights on the Lagonda’s interior. Continue reading “Hideous Hides”
Phase three – 1981-1986: Free at last. Jaguar’s independence becomes a reality as Sir William takes a more active role.
When John Egan made contact with Sir William Lyons in 1981 to sound out the Jaguar founder for the role of company President, he was taken aback by his response. ‘I already am, lad!’, Lyons informed him. Amid the turmoil of the previous eight years everyone appeared to have forgotten. Lyons warmly embraced the new incumbent, believing the Lancastrian was the man to reconstruct Jaguar after the disastrous Ryder years. The two men quickly developed a rapport and Egan became a regular visitor to his Wappenbury Hall home where he would take advice from Jaguar’s venerable founder.
Sales of dropheads have halved. So is the convertible on the skids?
Nothing says ‘I’m living the dream’ like driving a convertible. There is no rational or practical reason behind it other than to demonstrate to the world you have reached a point of affluence, crisis or sheer devil-may-care indifference that can only be manifested by driving into a roseate sunset with a piece of inappropriate headwear wedged in place to prevent your hair being ruined. As pointless indulgences go then, convertibles are right up there with chocolate teapots. Continue reading “Has the Sky Fallen in on Convertibles?”
Having run out of James Bond books (see earlier post), I read this book as a teenager. It’s a well written adventure thriller, but with a narrative that’s very much of its time, presumably with an eye on the then burgeoning Ian Fleming / Len Deighton / John Le Carré market. Gavin Lyall was a crime and spy thriller writer and the husband of the excellent Katharine Whitehorn. He was known for his meticulous research.
What I have always remembered is that, central to a large section of the narrative, is a Citroën DS that takes on an almost heroic status as it takes the first-person protagonist across France. Its starring role was possibly inspired by the true life escape of French President Charles De Gaulle from an OAS assassination attempt in 1962 (see The Day Of The Jackal) where his driver exploited the DS’s unique suspension to Continue reading “Theme : Books – Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall”
In 2013 Honda showed their highly aerodynamic FCev concept car. The production version has been revealed and is surprisingly close in feel to the ’13 car.
The objectives with the FCev are for a vehicle to produce 100kW from its fuel-cell stack and carry four adults. The aerodynamically creased body shell reduces the cD in an overt way we have not seen for two decades. This promises 300 miles of range, which is not so bad if you recall that the Citroen CX GTi got by with a 280 mile range. If you drive an Aston Martin hard you can get considerably less. Continue reading “2016 Honda FCev Design Analysis”
Having looked at the issues besetting the mighty Volkswagen AG (VAG) recently in Part 1 – which can be read here – we can now try and shed some light on the depth of the problems and likely solutions.
Today, the problem is that these cars are all on the verge of being replaced (or have already been replaced, in the Golf VI’s case). The new range taking their place will, even once the glitches related to MQB have been ironed out, not be as lucrative, with profit margins shrinking by as much as two thirds, compared with the Bernhard-era models. This should make future subsidising of models such as the Amarok pick-up (which is said to have a profit margin of -25%) with the Tiguan II’s yields considerably more difficult.Continue reading “Teutonic Displacement: Volkswagen Konzern (Part 2)”
A book about one of Citroën’s two great designers.
A while ago, having come across this by chance on the Internet, I bought a new copy direct from Sagitta Press in The Netherlands. First published in 2002, it’s not cheap, but it is a heavy, handsome and copiously illustrated book about a relatively unsung giant of car design.
Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of highly convincing, but unrealised Renault concepts begins here…
Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – in fact contemporary reports suggest it was rather good. But success eluded it – although the smaller-engined R20 model sharing an identical bodyshell can’t have aided matters.
During the 1980’s Renault tried again with the more attractive looking Robert Opron-inspired R25. They got around the issue this time by offering the same model with a range of engines and while the car proved moderately successful outside of its home market, it too failed to make serious inroads upon rivals like the contemporary Audi 100 and Ford Scorpio.
During 1987, with Opron (and consultant, Marcello Gandini) gone, Renault appointed Partick Le Quément as Vice President of Corporate Design with a remit to shake up Renault’s styling and by dint, its position in the market. Le Quément got to work and one of the first fruits of this new regime was shown at the 1988 Paris Motor Show. The Megane concept was a three volume saloon with a drag coefficient of 0.21; Renault describing the Megane’s appearance as “plump yet not appearing so, a completely new form.” (Note the complete absence of the word ‘sporty’ – although one has to admit, ‘plump’ wouldn’t have been my choice of words)
Its huge sliding doors revealed an interior that resembled that of a private jet, the Megane in some ways anticipating the later Avantime in providing exceptional comfort for four occupants – Le Quément calling it “a supercar for living.” Some of the more outré features such as the two luggage compartments and its ability to switch from a three volume to a hatchback by sliding its frameless rear window aft were somewhat far fetched show car frippery, but there was within this concept, the bones of a convincing big Renault for the 1990’s – one that could have given the Citroën XM a bit of a fright. So how on earth they went from this to the 1992 Safrane is anyone’s guess. One can only assume it was an argument Le Quément lost to more risk-averse minds.
Certainly, it was one that served Renault poorly, given the Safrane’s lack of sales success and Renault’s continued inability to wrest even a decent proportion of their German rival’s market. The Safrane’s lack of appeal saw Renault’s share of the mainstream luxury car market shrink to levels that were frankly unsustainable by the time it was eventually replaced by the Avantime and Vel Satis. A matter that should be borne in mind when considering their eventual fate.
The Megane concept therefore marks the beginning of a generation of avant garde Renault concepts – visions of what would become an impossible future.
Further musings on Renault’s recent design history can be read here and here
Would you dare drive a 30 year old car with only 157 km on the odometer? This Lancia Trevi VX (registered in 1985) is for sale.
Every now and then a museum-quality rarity shows up. This has to be the oddest I’ve seen in the last few years. Beating an unused 1975 Peugeot 604 (delivery miles) and an 8,000 km 1983 Ford Granada we have this delivery-miles 1984 Lancia Trevi VX, registered in 1985. It’s for sale at mobile.de and if you want to see it, you’ll need to take a trip to Bavaria and head northwest to Affing-Mühlhausen, a town noted mostly for its association with the Wittelsbachs who ruled Bavaria from 1180 to 1918. You can stay in the Hotel Ludwigshof and make a trip of it. Continue reading “157 KM Only: 1984 Lancia Trevi Volumex”
DTW has approached another design student to find out what they think. This time we have put questions to Narayan Subramaniam who is a multiple-award winning design student, currently at work on his second MA in design at Umea, Sweden.
So, what sort of career has our subject had so far? In 2012 Narayan won the Michelin Design Challenge and his work was shown at the Detroit Motor show. Last year he won the First Moves award. In 2007 he claimed first prize in the All-India Engineering Competition for the best functional prototype. This list is much longer than this selection. Continue reading “Shaping the Future 3: Narayan Subramaniam”
How bad were Jaguar’s quality problems in 1987? And what was Car magazine thinking when the XJ6 won a giant-test against the Rover Sterling and Vauxhall Senator? The Jaguar was rusting before their eyes.
Naming systems can be confusing. Mercedes Benz is having another bash at designating their bewildering array of vehicles. And other news.
As we speak Cadillac is bringing in a 3-letter system; Lincoln is forgetting its long standing convention of Mk-cars. Who knows what a MKZ might be? And is a Mercedes GLA a G-class or an A-class? In philosophy classification has been a problem since Plato, or perhaps before. The difficulty lies in reducing the messy fuzziness of the universe to a few categories. A system needs to be simpler than reality. Continue reading “Mercedes Rework Their Naming System… Again”
My credentials to write about the cars of Ian Fleming are mixed.
In my favour, I had read the entire canon of 14 James Bond books by the time I was 14 and I am, more or less, the same age as the very first Bond book. Against that I’ve never read them since, and that was a long time ago, though it’s a sad reflection on the state of my mind how much I still remember.
Ian Fleming was an accomplished writer of children’s stories. Some people forget that he wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, but his best kid’s stories were the ones featuring Commander James Bond of the Secret Intelligence Service. At 14, I was so seduced that I anticipated a life of breakfasting on scrambled eggs, ham and plenty of strong, black coffee following on with a day’s light indulgence in cold-blooded violence, rounding off with lobster thermidor, a ‘49 Montrachet chilled to 37 degrees, fresh alpine strawberries and, later on …
How much can a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an ‘engineered by Ferrari’ badge? Or shouldn’t Alfa’s engineering speak for itself?
While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar that Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn’t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.” This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi’s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well Continue reading “Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- Edition, Engineered By Ferrari”
The first thought on driving the Twingo is Why? Had I never read about the car, and had you sat me in it, I might have driven for hours before I finally twigged that something was, mechanically speaking, different from its competitors. The engine starts and a quiet burble appears in the cabin. It is unobtrusive, for a small car, and comes from no particular direction. Continue reading “2014 Renault Twingo Review (Resumed)”
Can you use a car brand convincingly in a novel without merely leaching off its existing image? Iain Banks shows the answer is yes and no.
Placing cars in books is a specialised version of the use of brands generally. Iain Banks often referred to or even used specific cars as elements of his plots (Bristol is name-checked in his novel The Bridge). In this Banks shares something with Ian Fleming, another story-teller in the traditional mould. There are two specific instances where Banks did this which I would like to discuss. One case succeeded very well, since the reference resonated with the character and story involved. The other instance seemed to me to definitively indicate the entire novel in question had not itself worked. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Iain Banks”
So, I presume you are all wondering how Qoros Automotive is doing? I was so I went and found out.
In March I wrote an article about the Israeli-Chinese firm Qoros. The latest news is that Qoros is running into difficulty, leading to reports of a split between the Israeli investors and the Chinese side of things. The Wall Street Journal reported itanother way, saying major shareholder, Israel Corp have reiterated their support for the firm. This is as reassuring as saying out of the blue, “I won’t chop off your arm”, I think.
“The new Saab 99 tested”. In this transcript Archie Vicar samples what is now viewed as one of the top-ten great Saabs. Is it more than the anti-Volvo?
From “Mass Motorist” Dec. 1968. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.
When people think of Sweden and Swedish cars, they often think of Volvo who make sturdy machines capable of withstanding the horrors of the Scandinavian climate. But it’s worth remembering that Sweden has a second car maker, Saab, who also make fighter jets. Like our friends at Bristol, Saab use the experience they have gained in aerospace to Continue reading “1968 Saab 99: Review”
The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities by C. Edson Armi.
Armi’s book (now out of print) rewards repeated reading. Few books seem to be able to find a language to discuss the process of car design. This one does. In giving a vocabulary to the process it becomes instantly more comprehensible and concrete. The interviews with GM designers such as Bill Mitchell and Bill Porter are encrusted with Continue reading “Theme: Books – The Art of American Car Design”
Sports models have kept Jaguar in business in the US market for decades, so what’s the matter with their saloons?
At Driven to Write, we are constantly at pains to point out the repetitive nature of Jaguar’s history, much of which has to do with the marque’s frequent lapses into commercial and financial abysses. For example, during the mid-1960’s Jaguar’s sales in the US slumped dramatically on the back of the commercial failure of the MK 10 and S-Type saloons. Continue reading “In Emergency Dial ‘F’”
This year, Bertone has joined the doleful list of recently deceased Italian styling houses, having held out against the inevitable longer than most. The quantity and quality of Bertone’s output had been in decline, particularly as commissions from major manufacturers began to dry up. The era of the great Italian styling houses is over and the centre of gravity has moved away from its traditional Italian heartland. Continue reading “Death of a Carrozzeria”
Not very many books on cars demand as much as LJK Setright’s social history of the motor car. It offers a lot in return though.
To be very honest, there are very few motoring writers who can write well. And there seems only to have been one who could write outstandingly well. LJK Setright was that one. This fine book is quite probably unique because it’s a towering monument to a rich understanding of motor vehicles showing most clearly why an intelligent, cultured person might find them a worthy object of contemplation. Continue reading “Theme: Books – Drive On!”
Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?
One of the reasons the motor industry continues to be such compelling subject matter is its almost limitless capacity to surprise. Last week, we looked at FCA’s decision to float off Ferrari as a stand-alone business – a move that surprised many – (if not ourselves). Now however, we are compelled to eat a portion of humble pie on the back of sales figures for Maserati that appear to demonstrate the storied brand’s continued growth to be no mirage, despite strong misgivings we expressed on the subject back in May. Continue reading “The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs”
“BM-double-who?” In this transcription from a 1966 article, Archibald Vicar takes a close look at a questionable product from a struggling motor manufacturer from Bavaria. Can the 1602 really compete, asks a sceptical Vicar.
From “The Modern Motorist”, June 1966. Photographic Plates by Chester of Shipton-On-Stour, M. Phil (Oxon)
When Bayerische Motoren Werke invited us to a test drive near Munich we didn’t know what to expect. This obscure firm is still better known for their bubble cars than for ordinary family vehicles. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, BMW had a reputation for making fine motor cars before the second world war. Since then they have mostly made do with the manufacturing of Isettas under license. Continue reading “1966 BMW 1602: Review”
Créateur d’Automobiles: that’s how Renault styled themselves for a while.And indeed some of the concept cars have been very good. But, we can’t help noticing a gap between the promise and reality.
Just before the turn of the 21st century, Renault had successfully re-invented itself as a maker of one-box or ‘monospace’ cars of various sizes, from the Espace that started it all in 1984 to the Scenic of 1995, through Patrick Le Quement’s masterpiece: the Twingo Mark I of 1992.
Air-cooled Tomfoolery: Archibald Vicar on the new Porsche Nine-Hundred And Eleven
From “Advanced Motorism” October, 1964. Photographs by Douglas Land-Windermere, Esq.
The “Volk” who make Porsche sportscars (a firm called Porsche, oddly) invited “Advanced Motorism” to drive their new machine, the Nine-Hundred-and-Eleven. I hadn’t been abroad for a while so I accepted forthwith, chiefly so I could Continue reading “1965 Porsche 911: review”
With Jaguar heading for privatisation, internal BL politics once again reared their head. Sir Micheal Edwardes’ successor, Ray Horrocks was opposed to Jaguar’s independence, lobbying to prevent Egan successfully manoeuvring towards BLexit. With BL at work on an executive saloon to be launched in 1986, Horrocks also moved to ensure there would be no encroachment into Rover’s market. Unsurprisingly, Jaguar’s Chairman had other ideas. Continue reading “History Repeating: XJ40 Part 10”
Walking around the other day I noticed this little vehicle. Tucked away on the tailgate was the clue that this was no ordinary bland, three door hatch. This was a candidate for Unforgetting. The 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4.
The car we all know as the Baleno enjoyed life under several different names, depending on the large number of markets Suzuki offered it in. In Europe, the Baleno name is the one we recognise. For those who appreciate dull and forgotten cars, the Baleno saloon (or estate) has an impressive reputation as a car so ordinary and unremarkable it stands out.
In a previous time, before an age where any jaded old hack and a few opinionated dilettantes could open a website at the flick of a keyboard, a knowledge of motoring history relied on the prodigious memory of chaps like Bill Boddy, piles of magazines in the attic and, of course, lots of books.