“Studillac” said Leiter. “Studebaker with a Cadillac engine. Special transmission and brakes and rear axle. Conversion job. A small firm near New York turns them out. Only a few, but they’re a damn sight better sports car than those Corvettes and Thunderbirds. And you couldn’t have anything better than this body. Designed by that Frenchman, Raymond Loewy. Best designer in the world. But it’s a bit too advanced for the American market. Studebaker’s never got enough credit for this body. Too unconventional. Like the car.”Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – The Studillac”
The Volvo S60 appeared in 2000, replacing the S70 which had its roots in the 1991 850.
About 1800 differences distinguished the rectilinear 850 from the less rectilinear S70. Between them about a million units were sold, which is creditable indeed. In the S60’s nine years it managed 631,000 units. According to the press commentary, Volvo aimed the S60 at drivers, tired perhaps of jibes about how dull their cars were. To express this intent Volvo threw out litres of headroom and interior space as a result of the new car’s more rakish profile.
Indeed, it looked good then and does so now but my experience of the two cars is that the S60 is cramped while the S70 is perfect for long drives with a full complement of passengers and luggage. Continue reading “Looking Back: 2001 Volvo S60”
Regular readers of this site know that there are only three natural positions for a product in the car market: luxury, sporting and economy. And?
And don’t get pushed too far from them. That’s the no-man’s land of not very sporty, not very cheap and not very luxurious. The unmarked graves of Lincoln (unfilled at the moment), Saab, Oldsmobile and Lancia are all in that bourne from which no car maker returns. Apart from Saab and Borgward.
Two long running sagas stand out in the automotive world, perennials which still pop up year after year since goodness knows when.
One is that of Alfa Romeo’s struggle to get back on the form it showed in 1965. The other is that of Cadillac’s endless quest for credibility in Europe (and then latterly in the US).
The 2000 Cadillac Seville STS is one of the episodes in Cadillac’s incredibly drawn-out attempts to get away from the form it showed from the 1950s until the mid-1990s, purveyors of ludicrously oversprung land yachts. So, while Alfa Romeo would love some of its 1960s mojo back, Cadillac wants us to Continue reading “Looking Back: 2000 Cadillac Seville STS”
No, not the one you’re thinking of. This is the last rear-wheel drive Alfa saloon. Or is it?
By 1980, government owned Alfa Romeo was in trouble. The Alfa Sud experiment was unravelling amidst chronic labour unrest and the deteriorating reputation of the model that took its name. In addition, its expensive engineering couldn’t be recouped by its low price and paltry volumes, meaning Alfa was haemorrhaging Lire at a prodigious rate. Continue reading “Tipo 156 – The Last Alfa Romeo”
In April 2001 the first reports about Mazda’s rotary engine coupe-saloon RX-8 appeared. Production started in 2002. What happened then?
Behind the idea of the four-door coupe was that people wanted something more practical than a two-door coupe but liked the image and appearance of the classic hardtop sports car. The use of a compact rotary engine and a complex door concept allowed more space inside the cabin and the means to get at it without gymnastics. Continue reading “Looking back: 2001 Mazda RX-8”
In the second of our postscripts to the XJ40 story, we profile its architect.
“To meet Jim Randle and to talk to him is to go into a quiet and refined world. Randle is a precise, immaculately tailored executive, whose voice is pitched so low you immediately know why an XJ12 is so refined.”(Motor historian, Graham Robson 1981)
When auto journalists profiled Jim Randle, the same adjectives just kept cropping up. Following the dapper and avuncular William Heynes and the professorial Bob Knight, Randle was an engineering chief from Jaguar central casting. Quiet spoken, brilliantly clever and refreshingly free of ego, Randle was the engineer’s engineer. Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Jim Randle”
The Mk 2 Ford Granada had a lot going for it writes editor-at-large Myles Gorfe.
With a range of powerful engines, excellent roadholding and sharp-styling, it virtually sold itself. Ford didn’t like to rest on their laurels though. So, to celebrate the Olympics of 1980, they made a limited run of Chasseur special edition estates.
Ford are making a bit of a meal of their luxurious Vignale-edition Mondeo, but this idea is not new for Ford who have actually presented smart, luxury versions of their mainstays for decades. The Granada Chasseur estate, to be precise. During the week, the Granada estate worked like any other large, prestigious and fast saloon. At the weekends, the huge load bay meant it could Continue reading “Gorfe´s Granadas: 1980 Granada Chasseur 2.8”
Was GM’s EV ever a contender? And is it a Parallel Hybrid? This is a revised version of a post published last October following the Opel Ampera’s withdrawal from sale.
We laugh at giants at our peril. General Motors has made many mistakes in its existence, but it has scored lots of hits, and it’s still around. So, when they started taking EVs seriously, for the second time around after the controversial EV1 of the mid 90s, we needed to take GM seriously.
However giants take the small people for granted at their peril. GM’s very size means that it has little affection or goodwill going for it, so it will often be harshly judged. When the Chevrolet Volt, whose technology underlies the Ampera, first appeared critics were quick to accuse it of not being a pure EV, claiming that it was no more that a smoke-and-mirrors version of a Prius. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – GM Pushes The Definition”
The LS racked up a few awards, namely Motor Trend’s car of the year 2000 and it was nominated as American Car of the Year, although it was pipped by Ford’s Focus and Audi’s TT. The LS was also Lincoln’s first attempt to fight off its reputation as a car for the nearly dead. That battle is reminiscent of Cadillac’s fight for a younger image, a fight Lincoln is still losing 15 years later.
The LS shared its main elements with the Jaguar S-type and Ford Thunderbird and had a similarly contentious styling. Of the two saloons (while we’re comparing) the Jaguar managed a better job than the Lincoln. The 2000 Car Buyer’s Guide called the design ‘ho-hum’. I’d call it a derivative mash-up of VW Passat, Mitsubishi Diamante, Opel Astra, Ford Edge Design details and Lincoln motifs.
I remember seeing the concept car upon which this car was based. They included it at the 2000 London Motor Show though it was originally unveiled in Paris. Nissan intended to make a car as bold as the previous version had been blandly, if neatly styled.
Automotive Intelligence said this: “The Fusion concept is based on an ambitious philosophy. The brief to the Nissan designers was to develop an innovative style which adds strong emotional involvement to the traditional technical excellence of Nissan’s products; and to integrate western taste and Japanese roots, interpreted in a modern and even futuristic way.” Continue reading “Looking Back: 2001 Nissan Primera”
For your £20,395 you got 130 mph top speed, nought to sixty in under ten seconds and you could eke out 34 mpg from the car’s 2.0 litre four. And there was all that load space in the back.
Unlike Renault who wanted to style their station wagon Laguna as some manner of sports estate or lifestyle tourer, Ford stuck to a straight sales proposition. The Mondeo wagon was a Mondeo saloon with a lot more space. It had an upright tailgate and fairly flat sides so it did what people might expect an estate car to do, namely carry things rather than advertise a lifestyle. The estate was 7 centimetres longer and a bit taller. Shame the seats didn’t Continue reading “Looking back: 2001 Ford Mondeo 2.0 Ghia X estate”
Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?
Last week two seemingly unrelated news items landed, which taken on face value elicited only mild interest. But to a cut-price Max Warburton such as myself, the two stories add up to something a good deal more intriguing. Continue reading “There’s Something About Mary”
I had a Swiss Army Knife once, but I never used it and I don’t know where it is now. I’m willing to concede that it is probably a useful thing to have about your person and, were I marooned on an iceberg with polar bears ready to attack, I’m sure I’d curse the fact that I hadn’t hung on to that knife. Generally, though, I find the idea of multi-function devices problematic. First, all your eggs are in the one basket so, when one thing goes wrong, everything else is compromised. Second, instead of doing one thing adequately, they often do two, or more, things badly. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – The Swiss Army Knife Syndrome”
We profile a man who did more to define not only the XJ40 concept, but also Jaguar’s overall engineering direction than perhaps any other single individual – Bob Knight CBE.
“The idea that development towards the ultimate should ever stop is anathema to Bob Knight. [He] never failed to use every last available moment to perfect some detail. So it was hardly surprising that without any curb on modifications, any car in Knight’s sphere of control was ever signed off unconditionally.” Andrew Whyte (Auto historian) Continue reading “The Men Who Made the ’40 – Bob Knight”
Is a posh Corolla an oxymoron? Not in Ireland during the 1980’s.
It might surprise you, but the (AE92-series) Corolla, in 1.6 GLi form, was considered a desirable upmarket car in Ireland during the latter part of the 1980’s, before we became brand snobs like everyone else. This era also coincided with two more appealing slightly upmarket Japanese hatchbacks – Mazda’s 323F and Honda’s 5-door Integra.
This is also conveniently part of my Looking Back series.
We can begin by looking at this little film by Doug de Muro. I have to say I like the chap’s presentation mode. It is very cheerful in a way the Americans do very well. It avoids Hammond’s cheeky chappy style and Clarkson’s tucked in chin. The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius both went on sale in 2000, showcasing the idea that you could mix an electric and petrol system to Continue reading “Theme: Hybrids – 2000 Honda Insight”
Is the four-door coupé already out of road, or is it just crossing over?
Automotive niches interest me because they represent the closest thing manufacturers come to risk taking. Take the four-door coupé segment for example. I’ve puzzled over this sector’s viability ever since Mercedes-Benz introduced the CLS-Class a decade ago. After all, it hasn’t necessarily set the automotive world alight, has it? Apart from Mercedes, who have we got? Audi has the A7, BMW the 6-Series Gran coupé, Porsche offers the Panamera and VW the CC. That’s pretty much your lot. Common strand? Yes, they all hail from German manufacturers, which does add up to a somewhat one-dimensional bandwagon. Continue reading “Crossroads for the Four Door Coupé”
Cars no longer differ from country to country, but once they had definite national characteristics. What happened when two nations met – collaboration, collision or confusion?
We now seem to have reached a consensus that the type of car most should be is ‘Germanic’, being lazy shorthand for something efficient, hard riding, fast enough and, usually, a bit clinical. Some sports cars remain, possibly, more traditionally ‘Italianate’ in spirit, being nervy, noisy and involving to drive. Nowadays, though, car making is truly a global industry where an Italian car maker might produce a model exclusively in Poland, and where the designers and engineers come from scores of different nations. Nearly fifty years ago this wasn’t the case.
In November 2000 the first print articles on the Renault Laguna Mk2 started to appear. What did they say?
Renault’s approach was to “take the car upmarket” by improving the fit and finish of the interior (everyone was thinking ‘Passat B5’ at this time). Patrick Le Quement said of the car that combined Germanic rigour in its treatment and Latin flavour. Looking back, it’s hard to see how the Laguna Mk 1 lacked any rigour as the design still holds up for the quality of its detailing inside and out. With the Mk2 they flattened the surfaces and reduced the curvature of the main forms, lending the car a more chiselled, planar look. Where did the flair reside? Continue reading “Looking Back: 2001 Renault Laguna”
This is the only car in this series still in production. Why might that be?
Well, progress at this level is slow. Or maybe you believe Rolls Royce who say customers don’t want change to be too frequent. When the coachwork was revised in 2012 R-R said: “Our customers don’t want a new car coming to market too often,” said Richard Carter , Rolls-Royce’s communications director. Or rather, after stumping up more than a third of a million pounds, they don’t want their cars looking out of date when the Mark II version is launched” (wrote the Telegraph in 2012). A quarter of a million pounds sterling. Almost six metres long. So tall you can’t Continue reading “Looking back: 2003 Rolls Royce Phantom”
Porsche have made several attempts at a four seater over the years, from stretched versions of the eternal 911, to a long-wheelbase 928 created for Ferry Porsche’s 75th birthday, but perhaps Zuffenhausen’s most serious attempt was this.
Porsche were no stranger to crisis – for decades prey to the changing needs, regulations and currency fluctuations of the vital North American market. Having almost gone bust on several occasions since the Seventies, Porsche, under chief engineer, Dr. Ulrich Bez, schemed a larger, more mainstream model to help Continue reading “Panamera Precursor”
In this second instalment, I thought I’d provide my views on how the Mazda3 drives.
I count myself as someone who is normally immune to whatever slogan/ brand strap-line nonsense a company’s marketing team and/ or agency throws at a product or service that they are trying to sell. Actually, that’s not quite correct as a statement; normally such nonsense prejudices me against whatever is being advertised, promoted or sold. I may be showing my bias towards my new purchase, or just indulging in a little subconscious post-purchase decision re-enforcement, but, after recent drives in the 3, I have twice found myself trying to recall marketing messages in the various pieces of Mazda brochure-ware I have lately consumed. Continue reading “Long Term Test: Mazda3 Fastback 2.2d Sport Nav”
I had high hopes for this car, the 147. It had 156 underpinnings and a noticeable increase in quality compared to its predecessors, the 145/146 pair.
The 147 appeared in the press in July 2000 and went on sale in October. As well as being a markedly more mature car than those it succeeded, it owed a little to the Tipo platform from 1988. Alfa declared that from the next model onward, the Multipla’s spaceframe system would be used. That didn’t happen. Continue reading “Looking Back: 2000 Alfa Romeo 147”
As Porsche’s 2016 Panamera gets beach body ready, will edition 2.0 secure Michael Mauer’s legacy?
Auto Industry Management 101 states all car bosses must speak only in soundbites, remain resolutely on-message and above all, never badmouth the product. Especially product customers can still purchase new at their local dealer. All of which appears to have escaped Porsche MD, Matthias Muller’s notice at last September’s Paris motor show. With Porsche’s hunchbacked Panamera saloon a good 18 months shy of being taken to a quiet piece of woodland and whacked over the head with a shovel, Continue reading “Madness into Method”
Bristol and Jensen had American engine power as did France’s Facel. The Citroen SM had Italian power. A small Swiss firm, Monteverdi, chose Italian styling and American engines for its small batches of supercars.
In 1967, Peter Monteverdi produced a supercar, the 375 S, shown at that year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. Frua created the styling and a now-defunct carrosserie called Stahlbau Muttenz provided a steel tubular space frame. The name came from the power output of the 7.2 litre Chrysler engine, 375 h.p. Just eleven examples were made so it’s a bit of a rare beast. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – Monteverdi’s Swiss-Italian-American Confection”
Renault’s 2016 Talisman revealed. It’s a sober and serious saloon. It’s the anti-Laguna.
It took me a good twenty minutes of careful reading to get through the entirety of Renault’s very, very detailed press release. The three things that struck me most were the bit to do with emu feathers, the use of four wheel steering and the fact the Talisman is a saloon. Naturally the car is not available in green but ten other colours which can be summarised as two whites, two greys, two blacks, red, beige and brown. One of those blacks is only available on the Paris Initiale version. They won’t sell it in the UK or Ireland.
As we get news of another relaunch, we ask who buys sportcars any more?
Although TVR ceased production of cars nine years ago, under then owner Nikolay Smolensky, it never really died, it just seemed to be asleep. Someone, somewhere was always hinting at its imminent awakening. This year’s announcement, with Gordon Murray and Cosworth involved, seems the most credible and substantial to date. But, however good the product, if most of its targeted customers live in Europe, as with previous TVRs, will it succeed, or has the world changed too much whilst it slept? Continue reading “Is The Everyday Sportscar Dead?”
FCA cooks up another unicorn – this one’s Delta-shaped.
A short while ago, Autocar’s Hilton Holloway posited a future for the Lancia brand. His wasn’t the first or even the best – (that honour lies elsewhere) – in fact his suggestions struck me as being lamentably short-termist in scope. Basically, he proposed that FCA revive Lancia with a series of retro-inspired cars based upon past icons. A revived Stratos, spun off the Alfa 4C platform and a Delta Integrale, based on the Giulietta. Low volume, high margin products, aimed at enthusiasts with a view to re-establishing Lancia’s credentials with a marketplace that now only recognises the brand on the basis of their presence in online gaming. Continue reading “That Ain’t No Way to Say Goodbye”
These days the general understanding of hybrid is a vehicle with a dual power source. A Chevrolet Spark is one example. I’d rather work my way back to Pandas.
The current interpretation of hybrid overshadows other interpretations. There has in recent decades been a temptation for manufacturers to take a bit of one idea and a bit of another to make a third one. How the recipe is blended is where the interest lies. If you take a 4-wheel drive, off-road vehicle and make it more civilised you end up with a Range Rover. If you aren’t very good with adding the civilisation part you get a G-wagon or Jeep Grand Cherokee. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – Ruminations”
Here is this revised or updated Audi A4 for your consideration. I have marked in red all the areas that look identical with the outgoing car.
I conclude the glasshouse is the same and the bodysides to halfway down the doors are the same geometry. They have replaced the pronounced upward curving swoosh groove with a scalloped indent and the lower bumpers have been tweaked. There’s nothing wrong with this as such. It is however what looks incredibly like a mild facelift. It is not a new car.
As anyone familiar with the site will know by now, Jaguars are something of a recurrent theme in my life. So when a few months ago I was offered the extended use of a 2013 Jaguar XF, I tried to accept with jaded equanimity. However the unseemly haste with which I bit the owner’s arm off probably betrayed my true feelings.Continue reading “Extended Test: 2013 Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”
Pistonheads, Autocar and The Truth About Cars have reported that TVR, under new management, is taking orders for 2017 delivery.
I had forgotten about TVR. In the 90s it was a favourite of the motoring press for its outrageous styling, in-house engines and aggressive performance. The two things you noticed about TVRs were that their drivers looked like they were having fun or they were waiting for the AA. Continue reading “TVR Is Coming Back To Life; Deposits Being Taken”
Here is the new (or revised?) Audi A4. Audi stresses the car’s athletic proportions which you’ll need a measuring tape to determine for yourselves.
The Avant is keeping its raked D-pillars to deter Volvo customers (or Skoda Superb customers). The vehicle is 4.73 metres long and has a 2.82 metre wheelbase. I will have to do a comparison later. The vehicle is a modest 15 kilos lighter, or about as much as a person can carry home by hand from the supermarket. Not much at all. Audi claim a cd of 0.23 which is the best in the class, with knock on benefits for interior peace. Continue reading “The 2016 Audi A4 Revealed”
After all the other things happening in the last few weeks it has been easy to miss less notable news stories. Among them is the 2016 BMW 7 series has been unveiled (June 11, for goodness’ sake).
Dimensionally the car is not much larger than the existing car so owners won’t have to build a new garage. It is a bit lighter (130kg) and a lot fussier. We are a long way from Ercole Spada’s interpretation which is virtually definitive or the Michelotti-influenced first version.
In today’s motoring world the term ‘hybrid’ has been hi-jacked for a certain type of vehicle. It is a fair enough description, but this month, without ignoring the sterling work of Toyota and others, we would also like to reclaim the word on a wider scale.
There have always been hybrids in motoring. It is well known that Ferdinand Porsche created a petrol/electric hybrid at the start of the 20th Century – a clever idea which we more or less forgot about for 90 or more years. On a more general level, the motor industry was mixing and matching from the start, taking it to a mammoth scale the moment Fiat put an airship engine into one of its production chassis in 1910. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – Introduction”