Romantic Names for Components: A Thing of the Past

Recent discussions here led me to wonder about components named after places. It turns out there are not so many and Ford is the most romantic of all in this regard.

Valencia, Spain. The engines are made in the house, centre: www.foundvalencia.com
Valencia, Spain. The engines are made in the house, centre: http://www.foundvalencia.com

What started this was the mention of the ZF gearbox used in later Peugeot 604s. I recalled that the GM Strasbourg unit initially did service in that car, a smooth 3-speeder of ancient lineage even in 1976. It was replaced by a ZF unit in 1981. In 2012 GM sold their Alsatian gearbox plant and among their customers is now ZF. I think naming such components after places rather than giving them technical names is rather endearing. When you think of the Strasbourg automatic ‘box, you think of this: Continue reading “Romantic Names for Components: A Thing of the Past”

The Forgotten Face of Nissan: 1995-2000 200 SX

While browsing through some old Autocars, I found a long-term test of the Nissan 200 SX. Hasn’t Nissan changed a lot since then?

1996 Nissan 200 SX. Rather unsettlingly, this is found at www.driftworks.com
1996 Nissan 200 SX. Rather unsettlingly, this is found at http://www.driftworks.com

The proportions are spot on and the pronounced boot is thrillingly conservative. Autocar complained the available volume was too small and the hinges intruded. They decided it was more of a GT than a sports car and who am I to disagree? I had utterly forgotten this car and indeed that side of Nissan that dared to Continue reading “The Forgotten Face of Nissan: 1995-2000 200 SX”

The Porsche Problem: Tesla’s Model X

From September 29th you can buy one of these, a Tesla model X. Would you?

Take the Model T formula and wrap it over a new package. Does that work for you? Image: Automotive News.com
Take the Model S formula and wrap it over a new package. Does that work for you? Image: Automotive News.com

Porsche spent a long time relying on essentially one shape. They tried a few alternatives in the form of the 924, 944 and 928 but none of them gelled or won approval except from design purists and die-hard Porschophiles. When it came time to create the first generation Cayenne they simply stretched the 911 theme over the carcass of an SUV. It still sold because people who like bombastic, gaz-guzzling roadwhales don’t care about how their car looks.

Will that work for Tesla who, absent any kind of design history, have decided to Continue reading “The Porsche Problem: Tesla’s Model X”

Theme : Wheels – The Three Pointed Star

Mercedes once valued their wheels. That’s just another thing they’ve forgotten.


In the 1930s, Mercedes introduced body coloured hubcaps with a central star, as seen on the 170. At the time, in fact, many manufacturers offered body-coloured wheels or hubcaps. After the War, some companies continued with this, Rolls Royce and various US brands in particular, but none did it with as much style as Mercedes. Continue reading “Theme : Wheels – The Three Pointed Star”

Theme of Last Month: Shutlines – A Trend

Will this theme not tire us all? This BMW i3 caught my eye because of the novel arrangment of the bumper and bodysides.

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Another element is the way the tailgate covers the lights. Audi have deployed this on some of their Q-series SUVs and good old Opel have managed it on their delightful Insignia estate. I have some history with this feature: as a newbie-designer (in 2002) I proposed this concept for a saloon and was told it was “not feasible”. Note to other designers, unless the laws of physics are challenged, everything is feasible given time and money. Always dispute the power of “no.”

The Lyon of Beauty: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury

This month your correspondent gets himself in a lather over the XF’s styling.

IMG_2546
All Images: Driven to Write

I’ve always considered the XF to be a handsome car, even if I had assumed it was something of a stopgap design; a stepping stone from the failed nostalgia of the S-Type to something more aesthetically robust. But confronted with the knowledge it now embodies the true North of Jaguar saloon style has forced me to re-engage with the car’s appearance in a way I might otherwise have sidestepped. Continue reading “The Lyon of Beauty: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”

20 Years of the Peugeot 406

Want a car as solid and durable as the Mercedes W-123 but nicer to drive? Look no further than this car and look past the lack of chrome.

1996 Peugeot 406: the press reviews started in July 1995 and the car went on sale in the UK and Ireland the following year. This is an Irish example from the year of launch.
1996 Peugeot 406: the press reviews started in July 1995 and the car went on sale in the UK and Ireland the following year. This is an Irish example from the year of launch.

Forty years ago Peugeot presented the 604 and attempted to gain entrance to the prestigious large car market. That didn’t work out, despite review after review praising the car’s ride quality, steering comfort and commendably huge boot. In 1995 the 406, a class down from the 604 but similarly dimensioned, replaced the well-respected and successful 405. Continue reading “20 Years of the Peugeot 406”

2016 Renault Megane: No Official Image?

This is refreshing. The image below is not the new Renault Megane to be launched on September the 15th. It’s a picture made up by someone good at Photoshop.

Not the new Renault Clio: rocksoncars.com
Not the new 2016 Renault Megane: rocksoncars.com

Continue reading “2016 Renault Megane: No Official Image?”

No, Seriously, I Have A Plan: Alfa Romeo’s Question Marks Plotted Out In Detail

The news today is that after the launch of the new Giulia, Alfa Romeo promises, no really promises – and they mean it this time – to launch a new model every six months.

2016 FCA Product Plan: image from Automotive News
2016 FCA Product Plan: image from Automotive News

The table above holds a lot of question marks as soon as it reaches the dim future time known as 2018. The following year’s plan is hard to read because there is a car pasted into the image. Fiat’s plans are rather flimsy. In 2016 and 2017 Fiat dealers will have ‘refreshed’ versions of the 500 and 500L. Did you know that by 2016 the 500 will have been on sale since the death of William Gladstone. It is older than the hills.

You can take a look at an old product plan here to see that since 2014 the new Spider and new D-class SUV were supposed to have been on sale. What value this new product plan?

Theme : Wheels – Introduction

The Editor Looks At Wheels

Wheels Scrapped

The Wheel has been around for at least five-and-a-half millennia yet, even in my very distant youth, its end seemed to be in sight. The Car Of The Future would surely fly, suspended possibly by air, jet motors or magnets. But here we are, well into the 21st Century, and The Wheel still reigns. Just as on Daimler’s first petrol-powered, converted carriage of 1886, four wheels remain the norm, five if you count a spare, three if you own various Reliant or Morgan models. Continue reading “Theme : Wheels – Introduction”