We take a short look back at the points raised in the theme of the month about to pass.
In the opening essay, I asked what are cars without roads to run them on. I also asked “What are those roads and why do they appeal? How do cars and roads relate? Is there a link between geology and the skills of a country’s chassis engineers?” We had some insightful comments from Sean, Eoin, SV and our regular guests, none of which answered those questions.
Run by: Myles Gorfe. Total Mileage: 299,914. Miles since March 2015: 3. Latest costs: £169 for refitting door hinges, £74.01 for harness work. £23 for replacing gear lever bezel, £12 for tightening rear-view mirror ball joint, £19 for oil and oil filter, £20 for clearing fuel line and £100 for clearing air intake, £50 for flat bed truck, £490 for cutting, welding, filling and painting c-pillar rust. £120 for fuel pumps (plus fitting).
It’s been a busy month for the Grannie. Len Gudgeon at the Granada Garage repaired the passenger door hinge and adjusted the detent. Under-lubrication with the wrong grade of oil meant the old ones wore prematurely. Continue reading “Our cars: 1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L”
….and not the Renault Espace. To launch the new Espace, the actor Kevin Spacey is being used in the advertising campaign. And so is the Guggenheim in Bilbao. And a lot of clichés.
A few things arise from this. I’ll start with the background. It is another one of those sterile and highly unrealistic images where every pixel of the original photography has seemingly been removed, polished and improved so that the final image is utterly divorced from reality. I don’t believe in this picture. I don’t believe an Espace went to Bilbao and I don’t believe Spacey, the car and building were ever in sight of each other. Continue reading “This One Is Really About Car Advertising”
I have a bit of a soft spot for small estate cars. DTW has tested the popular Renault Clio “Sports Tourer” dCI which is a small estate car. What was revealed in the course of 361 kilometres? What??
The Renault Clio has proved to be a successful entrant in the small car market and the estate version is as numerous (to judge by its ubiquity) as the “standard” five door body. Is there a difference? Yes, one you can measure and feel. The estate’s maximum boot volume is 439 litres compared to the 300 litres of the normal car. Both models have the same wheelbase. With the rear seats folded down, the volume rises from 1038 litres of the standard car to 1277 litres in the “sports tourer” or station wagon. You can see why people are Continue reading “2015 Renault Clio “Sports Tourer” dCi Road Test”
Phaeton. As a name it never really struck the right note. A little too puffed-up, ever so slightly grandiose for what really is a rather self effacing car. Perhaps in the absence of a suitably important-sounding wind, VW lacked options, or it was just another of Dr. Piëch’s flights of self-aggrandisement. Continue reading “Invincible Defeat: The VW Phaeton”
I did some more rooting around for oddities from the Shanghai Auto Show.
This is the Geely Emgrand GE, a rather shameless Rolls-Royce copy with a grille inspired by Buick. The headlamps curved shapes are not sitting happily there, are they? This car is reported to be based on the Volvo S80 platform. It has one seat in the back. When shown as a concept in 2008 it had a rather more obvious Rolls-Royce grille. That has changed to a less, slightly less, flagrant emulation of another brand’s grille. Continue reading “Some More Highlights of the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show”
The team at Australia’s Drive have put together an interesting listicle of some cars they consider worth our attention.
I picked two to show here. One is the Haval Concept R which has some rather wobbly highlights down the side but has a quite pleasing graphical arrangement at the front. Similarly, the Chery A5 looks orderly and distinctive. What we see here is a move away from the ornate look favoured by Chinese cars, specifically negative lines that meet at sharp points.
Alfa Romeo first showed the 75 in ’85. It replaced the Giulietta.
Alfa Romeo’s in-house styling department handled the exterior and interior which explains the marked eccentricity. It does have a lot of lines down the side (not much parallelism) and most versions had a black plastic strip running along from nose to tail. I’ve only seen one 75 with no plastic, a base model French-market car.
Everyone has a skeleton of some form in their cupboard. Among the bones in my ossuary is the fact I sought, bought and listened to Chris Rea’s Road to Hell.
The album is from 1989 and does not fit in with the other material I listened to at the time which included the Fatima Mansions first EP “Against Nature”, The The (“Mind Bomb” and “Infected”) and various random bits of 20th century classical music, as I recall. Plus the Housemartins. I still see the Beautiful South as an inauthentic replacement for the Housemartins.
We get the slide rule out on Renault’s mid-80’s midliner.
To finish the French part of this discussion, here is the 1986 Renault 21. While there is some room for interpretation in the exact angle of these lines, the overall theme is clear. Parallel lines govern the bodyside. They are almost equally spaced too. The apex of the triangle formed by the windscreen and rear window is almost symmetrically located. Both of these characters indicate a lack of underlying dynamism in this car. Notice a faint nod to aerodynamism in the partly covered rear wheel arch. Continue reading “Renault’s Design Rationalism: 1986 R21 Analysed”
Ferdi wasn’t always a household name. Here’s where he came in…
With reports earlier this week suggesting Ferdinand Piëch has threatened to resign over his failed attempt to oust VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, it’s as good a time as any to look at possibly his earliest appearance in the UK press. Continue reading “Rearview: An early Piëch at an Audi”
Here’s the German middle market take on design rationalism.
The main intention with this seems to have been to spell out its aerodynamic credentials. Hence the flush glazing, door handles and partly covered rear wheel arch. Commentators here note that it was not different enough from cheaper Opels such as the Astra. This is partly an effect of the shallow pressing and lack of relief but if you Continue reading “Design Rationalism: 1986 Opel Omega”
“Renault group revenue increased 13.7% in the first quarter,” they announced here. They are very diligent about sending me this kind of news.
Offsetting the deteriorating market conditions in Russia and Brazil, Renault group registrations increased 0.8% during the first quarter of 2015, reaching 641,588 vehicles in a worldwide automotive market up 1.7%. Furthermore, during the first quarter of 2015, Renault group registered 641,588 units (+0.8%), posting a stable worldwide market share at 3.0%.
A Danish firm, myowncar, offer customers the chance to personalise their vehicles with with their own designs for stickers. This is what happens when you don’t offer enough choice in exterior colours, isn’t it? I would like to see an S-Class so decorated. They need to be personalised too as you could easily lose one in an airport car park.
DTW tested the Renault Megane in 2010 and found it wanting. Another chance arose to test the car and so we can now offer a second opinion. What still irks and which aspects seem less unpalatable with the passage of time?
Our first test in 2010 involved a mid-range petrol-engined five door-hatch. This time DTW went for the 130 dCi estate in “Limited” garb. My casual research indicates this is the base model but it doesn’t feel all that base to sit in. Air con, blue teeth, electric windows and cloth upholstery are all included in the asking. Ringing in my ears as I sat in the car were the words of a neighbour who Continue reading “2015 Renault Megane 130 dCi Sports Tourer”
This article is a list of the ten best roads you might not have heard of. It’s cheap and easy padding for the Guardian but the photos are nice. Here is one:
I had not heard of any of the roads though some of them seem to be good enough to warrant a higher level of awareness than they seem to have. Isn’t the problem with tourism journalism that it makes people go to see places because they are unspoiled, thus spoiling them? It’s an extractive industry in a way.
As the Dark Lord of Wolfsburg loses his grip, is this the twilight of a dictator?
Lately, the mighty VW juggernaught has appeared unassailable. The Golf and Passat dominate their respective classes, while Audi and Porsche reap record profits on the back of a global luxury car boom. Yet serious fissures have appeared at the very top of the management chain which unchecked, could destabilise the entire organisation. Continue reading “Auf Wiedersehen Piëch?”
Last week we discussed Audi’s sensible approach to design using the 1982 100 as an example.
This late model Peugeot 405 SRi, which is in remarkably good condition shows how Pininfarina had a go at this approach to styling. Like the Audi, it still remains very fresh indeed but has its own distinct character. Thus, even within the framework of neat rationalism one can create shapes with a special identity. Note the very restrained use of brightwork: thin slivers of metal around the door frames.
We spot a welcome alternative to the ubiquitous ironic Trabant
Probably not an original colour available to the Soviet Nomenklatura, this rather nice, apparently Estonian registered example of a GAZ Volga M-21 was seen parked in the decadence that is London’s Berkeley Square yesterday. The door writing advertises a Russian language specialist London property company. Continue reading “Following On From The End Of History”
Nothing but pure curiosity drove me to this. What sort of engine range does Porsche have?
We had an interesting theme on engines some months back. We covered a lot of ground such as the engines of the mainstream makers and a special focus on quints, small V6s, rough American fours and French ones generally. What we didn’t do was look at sports cars like Porsche for whom the engine is essential to their credibility. Sorting this out sorts out their baffling range of cars too.
Looking at the period between 1955 and 1975, there are various cars that we might identify as landmarks. For example the Citroen DS, BMC Mini, Ford Mustang, Lamborghini Miura, Renault 16, Jaguar XJ, NSU Ro80, Fiat 128, Range Rover, Renault 5 and VW Golf are all cars that really stood out at the time, even if some of them, fine cars that they remain, might now be seen as landmarks to nowhere, having no true descendants among today’s products.
Our visiting Saab experts can probably identify this car more precisely.
It lives near my home and comes out at the start of summer and disappears in the autumn. It never seems to move in the meantime. I think it may be a piece of conceptual art. The timeline for the Saab 96 shows you could buy a new one until 1980. Similar living-fossils such as the Mini, Beetle, Renault 4 and 2CV all existed into this period so the 96 was not so out of place. However, the 96 must have seemed very archaic compared to the Golf which in many ways Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1960-1980 Saab 96”
For those of us who grew up in the 1970’s, it doesn’t necessarily always feel that long ago. Revisiting this print ad, I realise it was. Advertisements like this were not all that unusual then, especially when it came to advertising more ‘masculine’ cars. Like so many things we can now look back in astonishment over, this form of casual and gleeful sexism not only portrays women as emasculating killjoys, but also as quite incapable of appreciating a nice car – let alone being capable of driving one. Continue reading “Rearview: Try Justifying This…”
Rhodes is pretty much as far east as you can get before you leave Europe. Most people fly there.
Rhodes is not that big a place, almost 80 km from north to south and almost 40 km from east to west. 115,000 people live there full time and must cope with a huge, fluctuating tourist population.
Most of Rhodes’ roads are paved and once you get out of the main towns there are many sinuous and varied local roads winding through the island’s mountainous landscape. Like most Greek roads the surfaces are irregular and poorly maintained. Road signs are only sporadic and you must Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Rhodes”
Racetracks are a type of road. A decade ago I had my one and probably only racetrack experience, a drive on the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
What do I remember? What really stands out are that if I had been driving the car myself I would not have survived the first corner. The facilities suffer a want of quality and style. And, finally the other people there are not really people I have much in common with.
Audi’s Preference for Styling Over Design Considered. The 2014 Prologue suggests Ingolstadt is losing its way.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Mercedes’ design for many decades was that styling served to make engineering and production needs aesthetically acceptable. This meant the vehicles had an inherent correctness that makes their 60s to 80s cars look good today. Audi also cleaved to this formula though you’d have to Continue reading “Adding Something, Losing a Lot”
This is excellent news for Buick who sell very well in China (outselling Cadillac thirteen to one) and also gives Buick USA a more appropriate flagship than the Enclave (an SUV) or Lacrosse (a saloon). What is more interesting for Europeans is that this news also makes it seem likely that something similar or nearly identical could Continue reading “Is This the Next Opel Senator? (Part 2)”
European car sales rise 11% on strong demand for VW, Renault and FCA.
After what has seemed like most of a decade in the doldrums, European sales are growing again. It doesn’t feel like it but the increase in car sales is a trend almost two years old. 11% is quite a remarkable increase and reflects a number of factors, among which are a weak Euro and consumers eventually deciding to replace worn vehicles. The statistics were published by ACEA today.
The chief designer of Qoros, Martin Hildebrand, has revealed a drawing showing the style of the brand’s projected next car, the 2. Shades here of Hillman’s Benny Dohar, I feel.
The 2 will Qoros’ fourth model. The other three are the Qoros 3 hatchback, saloon and City (all essentially the same car tweaked). At present the firm is focusing on sales in China but has a small, experimental dealer network in Slovakia where 40 customers have been lured in. Continue reading “Qoros Show A Drawing”
“Physically, the Ventoux is dreadful. Bald, it’s the spirit of Dry: Its climate (it is much more an essence of climate than a geographic place) makes it a damned terrain, a testing place for heroes, something like a higher hell.” (Roland Barthes)
The urge to ascend mountains is ancient and mysterious. It has been suggested it’s rooted in the notion of a spiritual journey toward the divine. Certainly there’s an altered state one feels at high altitude, but this probably has as much to do with oxygen deprivation than anything of a more lofty nature. Continue reading “Theme: Roads – A Ride to the Moon”
A recent trip to La Belle France served only to remind me of just how dire are our UK roads, and to wonder at how the French can afford to keep theirs in such good condition.
During the Easter period, my family spent 10 days tooling around roads in the very centre of France. There was a real mix of roads: Autoroutes, dual-track roads, main roads (we’d call them A roads), as well as single track stuff and streets around towns and villages. All this was in a new-ish, but humble Megane 1.5dCi hire car. Our base was a pretty (but not fancy) little town called Argenton-sur-Creuse, but we ventured as far as La Rochelle, and in and around La Brenne. It’s fabulously rural (La Rochelle excepted), but the state of the roads is anything but that. Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Central France”
DTW presents another look back at the archives of motoring writer Archie Vicar. This item appears to be a transcript from “Motorists and Motorism”, August 1975.
What a week and indeed what a summer it has been so far. In May I had a chance to sample Michelin’s tyres at a special “closed track” day at Silverstone. A Mercedes 240D and a Peugeot 504 LD served as test-beds for Michelin’s new all-weather radial tyres. Peugeot have thought to bring these diesel cars over as they have had enough experience selling them on the continent. Also, seems as if they don’t want to Continue reading “Archive: “More T-Junctions, Vicar?””
This bit of research aimed to determine what, if any, variation existed in four major markets in the choice of colours available for the VW Golf.
I looked at the configurators at VW’s websites in Brazil, Australia, the US and Germany. The expectation was that there would be some variation in the number and type of colours. The first part (number) was confirmed by this empirical study but the second expectation (type) was not confirmed. The number of paint colours was counted for a typical variant of the Golf in each market.
Yesterday I took Lincoln to task for their model name system. I argued that since all their models bar one had an MK prefix, that part served no purpose. Lincoln are not alone though.
Automotive News report that Citroen is thinking of revising their own model nomenclature. Currently Citroen use a C prefix and this too is redundant. Unlike Lincoln’s fairly lame scheme, at least the MK might remind one of the glory days of Lincoln’s Mark-series, the Continentals. The C-system doesn’t even do that as it simply Continue reading “A Little More On Naming Systems”
Drivers In the 80s is a book of photos taken by Chris Dorley-Brown coming out on May 4th, published by Hoxton Mini Press. The photos date from 1987.
You can view some more samples of the photos here . The Guardian has a review here by their arts correspondent, Sam Wollaston. This part here is worth quoting: “Twenty-eight years on, the pictures make a curious collection. I’m no photography expert but I would say that individually, none of them is winning any awards. Composition-wise, there are all those pillars and mirrors in the way. And on a bright day, with stark contrast between light and shade, all their faces are in the dark; it’s their right elbows that are catching the light.” That’s correct, most of the photos are very banal. The one I selected has a little something Continue reading “Drivers in 1987”
The 1952 British film ‘Mr Denning Drives North’ is supposed to be a mystery thriller, so you’d think it would have been given a suitably mysterious title. And it was. Though its star, the excellent John Mills, was born in Norfolk and was never entirely typecast, his speciality was playing the essentially decent, resilient, middle class Englishman with an accent that is usually associated with what are known as The Home Counties – the Southern counties surrounding London. As such, the idea that he needed to ‘Drive North’ might have suggested mystery enough. Why would he ever want to do that, unless he had to for some, dark, dark reason?
The North/South divide is not confined to England. It exists in many countries and, I’d judge, is far more common than an East/West divide. There are many possible suggestions for why this is, but in part one might be climate. Climate affects character and, in more extreme cases such as Italy, the climate in Naples is very different from that in Milan. Even in the UK, Southerners generally get a softer time than those further North and this, combined with the fact that the Capital city is only about 60 miles from the South Coast, has increased the divide still further. Continue reading “Theme : Roads – Britain’s Longest”
Today I will turn my attention to Lincoln. How good does it look for Ford’s premium brand? What are they selling? Read on to find out what the main UK-based websites** aren’t telling you.
Lincoln’s range of vehicles has changed dramatically in the last decade. For nearly the entirety of its history the brand sold luxury cars in varying flavours of large. Not all of these have been particularly well-regarded but Lincoln has also managed to avoid overt product disasters. It has no equivalent to the Cadillac Cimarron, for example.
There is nothing remarkable about this car apart from its unusual state of preservation.
It’s a CLX, which is quite luxurious in Escort terms: swirly velour upholstery, rear armrest, rear head restraints, alloy wheels, colour coded this and also that. But it does remind me of the 1988 Chevrolet Corsica. Critics damned the Escort for its mediocrity and conservatism. Ford marketed the car as having “classical” style. Yes, classical Chevrolet style from 1988. Continue reading “A Picture for Sunday: 1990 Ford Escort CLX”
Today we look at a short-lived and largely forgotten automotive artefact.
The Autobianchi A111 was produced for only three years and is notable for being the largest, most prestigious model the carmaker produced – in fact, the A111 was never directly replaced. From 1972, Fiat-owned Autobianchi’s sole offering would be the mini-sized A112.
The genesis of the A111 lay in the 1964 Autobianchi Primula, front-wheel-drive pathfinder to Dante Giacosa’s 1969 masterpiece – the Fiat 128. The A111 also debuted in 1969, and a feeler gauge was required to tell them apart. The 128 measured 385 cm in length with a wheelbase of 244.5 cm, while the A111 was longer overall at 402 cm, but shorter between the wheels at 236 cm. Continue reading “Fossil Traces – Autobianchi A111”
Wait. Didn’t we do motorways a few days ago? Why are we doing the same thing again, only in German?
The Autobahn in question is Kraftwerk’s landmark albumfrom 1974. I have a copy of this record but I don’t listen to it very much, in part because it rather too successfully captures the tedium of driving on an Autobahn and not Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Autobahn”
Quite by chance I tapped in “Skoda” into my search engine. At Skoda’s German site the configurator allowed me to rustle up this image of a very green Fabia in short order.
While Skoda are offering this nice green they are not permitting an orange or a yellow. What appears to be brown on the selector (left) is in fact red. Astoundingly, Skoda UK also permit customers this same green, called Rallye Green.
DTW has prepared this side-by-side comparison of the 2007 Ford Galaxy and the “all-new” Ford Galaxy with its “latest global design language”.
You can read Ford’s lengthy description of the revised Galaxy here. Among the extensive field of words Ford composed is nothing about major dimensional changes or structural changes. Even the improvement in rear head-room was probably achievable by revising the seats.
On two occasions I drove diagonally across Ireland using local roads. It was rewarding though tiring.
The first trip went from the south east, Wexford, to the north-west, Sligo. We drove in the middle of winter in my much-missed base-model 1990 Peugeot 205. What could have been a four-hour trip via Dublin on the main roads took about eight but we got to see corners of Ireland by-passed by the 20th century. It was rather a long time ago now (1993) so I can’t provide a great deal of detail. What stands out though was Continue reading “Theme: Roads – Across Ireland as the Crow Drives”
Once, car choice was easy. Saloon, estate or, if your were really naughty, sports car. Even with brand – your dad bought Vauxhalls, and you did too. Now it’s not like that. Brand loyalty has gone out the door and there are so many choices and niches, each trying to appeal to your specific lifestyle needs. Except, speaking for myself at least, they don’t. Now, politics in the UK is catching up. Ever since the days of Tony Blair, the old Left/Right polarity has been a bit ropey, but is the UK Independence Party, to give it its full name, the first of the true Crossover Hybrids?
Recently DTW was on the hunt for a green car. Kia have kindly offered one in a nice grey-green. But that’s not the only good part. The car is the Novo. DTW presents this design analysis so you can sound knowledgeable when the subject comes up.
Kia chose the Seoul Auto show to present this excellent design. Either they want to upgrade the Seoul show by giving it morsels one might expect to see presented elsewhere. Or, they have underestimated the quality of this design.
Today, we examine rumours in the mainstream car industry that if accurate, could precipitate something quite unusual. Genuine surprise.
In a polarised landscape, the worst place to be is in the centre ground. This is as true of the mainstream motor industry as it is within politics, religion or even retail. Anyone not attempting to create upmarket brand extensions hopes to convince customers to pay more for their existing products. Others see the creation of new brands as the answer. Continue reading “The Resurrection Won’t Be Televised”