As our December theme chokes on the very last mince pie, we celebrate four decades of disappointment, brought to you by Jaguar.
It’s an emotion depressingly familiar to Jaguar enthusiasts from Burbank to Burnley. From the troubled post-Lyons era, the catastrophic BL years, the Egan Miracle, the Ford débâcle, to the current underwhelming JLR era. The big cat’s roaring again, the UK press delight in telling us, but is it really? Continue reading “Theme: Disappointment – Feline Gloomy”
Here it is, the our Top Fifty Best Cars Ever finalist. The engine is behind the driver. It has two seats, strong performance and agile handling…
For the Fiero, Pontiac used a range of engineering concepts not previously seen on an American two-seat sports car. The engine resided aft of the driver and Pontiac engineers opted to deploy plastic panels to clothe the chassis. This reduced weight, tooling costs and gave new freedom in styling. Although considered by some to be less than the sum of its parts, the Fiero sold well during its five year run, earning it a Car & Driver Ten Best award in 1984. Continue reading “Driven To Write’s Top Fifty Best Cars Ever: Number One”
The inimitable Ssang Yong Stavic. Or Ssang Yong Rodius Mk 2. This car moved the game along for the firm and buried the reputation it had for making visually challenging cars.
However, the car still nods to its illustrious predecessor with its distinctive roof design, redolent of the deck of a luxury yacht, the hallmark of Ken Greenly’s landmark shape. Out went the thirsty petrol engines and instead the car is powered by a 2.0 litre, Benz-derived turbo diesel which can haul up to eleven people from A to B. To recognise the achievement of the car it “was awarded “2014 Car of the Year – Best MPV Design” byGrand Prix, the most famous automotive magazine in Thailand” according to Wikipedia. They don’t come bigger or bolder than this MPV.
Ford have always had a knack for following the market closely and identifying the important trends. Here’s the appositely-named Maverick.
This careful watching meant that after the compact SUV craze had been very well-established in the late 1990’s Ford finally pounced and introduced the remarkable Maverick in 2001. While it was one of the latecomers the Maverick stole a march on the Mazda Tribute which was all but identical and it also offered some competition to Land Rover’s Freelander which appeared in 1997. While the Freelander was riddled with iffy electronics and had build of dubious quality, the Maverick was cheaper, bigger and more efficient. It thus provided competition to one of Ford’s own nameplates too, making for an interesting situation in terms of brand management. Continue reading “Driven To Write’s Top 50 Countdown: Number 3”
In our last instalment we burned up 800 words just getting to July. Now we will canter through August to December.
It had to happen. Lotus said they’d produce an SUV. To judge by the images shown it will really be a kind of tall hatchback and not a Jeep Cherokee clone. At this point in the history of the world I am only here to report that Mercedes have yet another model, the GLE coupe and I don’t know what the hell it is or what it does. I think it might be a competitor for the BMW GT something. I know people look to DTW for guidance on these things and that’s nice. I need to say here that eventually even I have given up on trying to parse the car market as it is seen by Mercedes so I can’t interpret it for you. Thank goodness Hyundai are launching RWD V-8s. I know what they are and what they are for. Continue reading “Car Noise 2015 Part 2”
A few days ago we took a general overview of the year past and reviewed the big trends. In this article we will look at the pointless details, the stuff you’ll have forgotten by the time you swipe the screen and return to your mince pies.
Land Rover’s Discovery Sport made the front pages of the magazines and as far as I recall I didn’t read another word about this life-style accessory for the rest of the year. Jean Marc-Gales discussed his plans to save Lotus which reminds me of the perennial stories about [insert name of manager]’s attempts to save Alfa Romeo. Among his promises: a four-door Lotus, an SUV. At present, the only hybrid they have is a concept Evora and that was from 2012. Continue reading “Car Noise 2015? Part 1”
As is traditional after Christmas Day, we get reflective. So much time. So few cars. About five years ago, before my memory began to fail me too much, I started a list of vehicles I had driven. By vehicles I meant cars, vans and motorcycles. I didn’t count more than one of any identifiable model (for instance I have driven dozens of Cortinas alone), though I used some discretion with vehicles that were substantially different by having, say, a smooth V6 instead of a wheezy inline 4. Since then, with various acquisitions and hire cars, I have now totalled 106 vehicles.
Humber was the quintessential lower upper-middle class brand. Their 1967 Super Snipe epitomised the Rootes Group’s attempt to dissect Britain’s fading class system and sell something targeted very precisely.
In 1958 when Britain’s class system was alive and well, the Super Snipe name re-emerged on a gracious, stately car that offered space and grandeur if not much pace for less than the price of a Jaguar and with none of the raffish connotations of a Triumph saloon. Perhaps only Rover offered a similar sort of small mansion-on-wheels-feeling. Continue reading “The All-Time Top 50 Cars: Number 6”
The Gamma Coupé evolved to become the model’s stylistic True North, but was this Pininfarina’s tacit admission of failure?
Over the course of our ongoing examination into the Gamma, I’ve focused primarily upon the Berlina, styled at Pininfarina by Aldo Brovorone, under the supervision of Leonardo Fioravanti. The origins of the saloon’s styling we will return to, but today I want to examine the version that captivated the pundits at the 1976 launch – the Pininfarina Coupé. Continue reading “Gamma Bytes – Pininfarina’s Concepts”
Ranking in equal 7th place with the Datsun Cherry (N12) is the 1984 Alfa Romeo 33 Green Cloverleaf.
With the Alfa Romeo 33 Green Cloverleaf, the Milanese firm continued its struggle to march back to the front of the sporting pack, to chase the Peugeot’s 305 GT and VW’s Golf GTi. Building on the structural foundations of the 1971 Alfa Sud, the 33 had a 105 bhp 1.5 litre flat-four engine and the same basic mechanicals.
As pointed out in an earlier article, the conflation of cars and sex isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, so who on earth thought cars and sextants was a good idea?
Should anybody labour under the illusion that marketing and Citroën were mutually exclusive before the advent of Linda Jackson, I offer you compelling evidence to the contrary.
For reasons best known to themselves Citroën’s marketing department created this nautically themed special edition in 1980. Loosely based on the 1124cc Visa Club, the Sextant came with a rear wiper, standard-fit radio, front headrests and tinted windows, in addition to jaunty blue decals and matching blue-finished injection-moulded front and rear bumpers.
It probably also came with a good deal of explaining to do, since most members of the public probably hadn’t the first idea what a sextant was, let alone did, despite the accompanying visuals going to farcical lengths to Continue reading “Cars and Sextants”
Is the search for Autoerotica doomed? We revive a post from DTW’s early days to find out.
My father was an old-school Freudian in his outlook. He wouldn’t miss a chance to make an association, and my obsession with cars was fertile ground. He pronounced that many cars were just phallic compensation symbols and I, in what I thought was a witty response, said that a phallus was just a compensation for not having a decent car – it sounded better when I was sixteen. Cars and Sex, Sex and Cars, they’re an old pairing, but I’ve never been entirely convinced.Continue reading “Theme : Disappointment – Cars & Sex”
If you find there is not enough material among DTW’s articles, I suggest you take a look at Curbside Classics. I was planning to write this anyway. Our discussion on American cars prompted me.
Curbside Classic’s Paul Neidermeyer ran a pair of articles recently about the ascent of the “brougham” trim level. He puts the moment at either 1964 with the Pontiac Bonneville Brougham or the 1965 Ford LTD. Along with a light writerly touch, Niedermeyer does some straightforward analysis. He makes a very valid point, getting beyond thoughts of velour button-pleats and mock-wood trim. For modern ears the term “brougham” gets in the way of understanding exactly the use of the term signified. The word distracts from the important point that marketing planners in GM and Ford in the 60s gave up being so assiduous in their demarcation of their brands. Continue reading “Curbside Classics’ Scholarly Contribution”
What is about the 1982 Cherry that continues to captivate? The virtually unique N12 Datsun Cherry conforms fully to Nissan´s forward-thinking approach to car design. This ties for seventh place with tomorrow’s 7b.
The 1982 Datsun Cherry (N12) carried on the success of the 1970-1977 version which helped establish Datsun’s presence in Western Europe. In particular it was able to capitalise on the appallingly designed and badly made products being offered in the United Kingdom, a situation that persisted until BLMC’s last fragments were closed. Datsun discovered that Continue reading “Driven to Write’s Top Fifty Countdown: Number 7a”
If big is beautiful, why aren’t there car model names with more than four digits?
People expend a lot of breath on the topic of vehicle names. Until quite recently many held that a name (Silver Shadow, Miura, Astra) presented fewer challenges to the memory than a number. A distinct minority believed numerical model identifiers (518, 911, 75 and 75) represented a cooler style that suggested greater objectivity.
A touch of Porsche magic gives the unique 1982 Seat Ronda its special allure.
Only die-hard Porsche fans and Seat connoisseurs know the secret of the Ronda’s appeal after all these years. For most people the Ronda is merely an attractive front-wheel drive car. For anyone conversant with the magic of Zuffenhausen, the Ronda is almost a Porsche in disguise, invisible to thieves and the law alike. What precisely was the Ronda? The Ronda had an efficient five door body, front wheel drive, rorty petrol motor and all-round disc and drum brakes. There is more to it than that though.
Well, not Saab as we recognise it and not with the Saab name. So, the headline is a bit misleading.
NEVS who own the assets of Saab are going to supply lots and lots of electric cars based on the dead-then-not-dead Saab 9-3 body. You can read the statement here. This is the first paragraph: ” National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs) and the Chinese company Panda New Energy Co Ltd. have signed a strategic collaboration agreement. According to the agreement, Nevs will provide Panda with 150,000 9-3 sedan electric vehicles until the end of 2020. In addition, the agreement also includes 100 000 other EV products and services from companies associated to Nevs and its owners. The total value of the agreement is 78 billion RMB.”Continue reading “Saab Is Back From the Dead: Official”
The Citroën Visa was never a wildly popular choice in these islands during its lifetime and with just over 40 reportedly still registered in Britain, it’s now on the extinction list.
But rarer still (had it existed) would have been this, a putative Visa saloon – (possibly the result of the Photoshopper’s art). Citroën (via Heuliez), did explore a five-door ‘break’ or estate variant later in the Visa’s lifespan, which never went beyond a mock-up. Creating a three volume body from a hatchback without appearing tacked-on is something of an art, one that proved beyond the capabilities of most rivals at the time, especially for a car as diminutive as the Visa.
But this is a neatly proportioned conversion, looking as though it was designed from first principles. The Visa’s relatively long wheelbase helps, that and the fact the designer avoided a fashionably high boot line. The plunging tail treatment lends the little saloon an elegance perhaps lacking in its hatchback sibling.
Despite its troubled background, the Visa was an underrated car and probably deserved more sales success than it managed in these parts. This may have been in part because of its looks, which fell between several stools. Would a small saloon have served them better? Probably unlikely, but who knows? Either way, I rather like this.
[Author’s note: This article was amended, to reflect considerable uncertainty about the authenticity of the lead image of this article. Dec 30, 2015]
Japanese concept cars are often very strange and often pure flights of fancy. Here is one that sits on the right side of the line separating odd from interesting.
The 2005 Mitsubishi D:5 (for Delica generation 5) appeared at the Tokyo motor show of that year. It represented a contemporary take on the Delica 4×4 vans that Mitsibishi sold. These little vehicles serve as tradesmen’s mobile tool-boxes and, when outfitted, as small camper vans. The utilitarian roots generally trump the needs of aesthetics. For the 2005 Concept, the vehicle is styled to Continue reading “Theme: Disappointment – 2005 Mitsubishi D:5 Concept Versus The Real Thing”
We return to our countdown of the all-time best cars ever. We’re now in the Top Ten so we’ll slow the pace and increase the tension! In at number nine, a car everyone rented, drove, saw, bought or sold in the 80s…
Throughout the 70s more and more Americans noticed the allure of European cars like the sharply-styled BMW 5-series and peerless Mercedes W-123 series. GM fought back with the Chevrolet Celebrity. And it worked. Using the flexible architecture of the renowned GM A-body (made in this case by Fisher Bodies), the Celebrity provided a compact but spacious vehicle which turned heads and won customers. The Celebrity was an important car for Chevrolet as it had to at least draw more customers than the outgoing Malibu. It is important to Continue reading “Driven to Write’s Best Cars Ever Top 50: Number 9”
Partly to make us look industrious and partly because I hate putting images into the comments box, I have turned this into a micropost. It relates to Sean’s article yesterday. How systematic is Waku-Doki? It’s this systematic:
Perhaps we might be coming to the end of this particular strand. Here are three concepts from Ford/Ghia and GM that show the gestation of the glazed C-pillar.
The last vehicle, the GM, is the most convincing as it shows the floating roof though more importantly, the glazing carrying from the side-glass around the C-pillar. The Fords show a will to glaze the C-pillar yet retaining a small radius from the side to the rear. GM’s stylist had the insight to make the radii from side to front and side to back bigger. It had a dramatic effect on the shape of the wing-to-bonnet as well. Notice Continue reading “The Origin of the SpeCies – Aeroglazing”
From a stylistic perspective at least, 1976 was a good time to introduce an unorthodox-looking luxury saloon, the market being temporarily disposed towards difference. Two years previously, Citroen had introduced the futuristic CX model and Rover were about to début the similarly forward-looking SD-1. Both cars offered a divergence from the classic three volume saloon template and for a time at least, buyers were prepared to accept this. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Five”
Did it lose something in translation, or was it ever there at all?
Waku-Doki! Like many vernacular expressions, translation into another language is unlikely to give the same emphasis. Toyota translates it as the lame “heart-pumping excitement”, but the untranslated Japanese expression does have a certain satisfyingly onomatopoeic sound to anglophone ears
Recently we discussed three examples of the glazed C-pillar phenomenon. We listed the Ford Granada, Olds Cutlass and Mitsubishi Lancer. How did we forget the 1987 Toyota Corolla Liftback?
We’d even mentioned it before. This example has been spending quality time under a tree. How long does it take for that green stuff to form? The Liftback is from 1987 and Ford’s similarly styled Granada is from 1985. That places the two designs so close together in time that Toyota can be exonerated from allegations of photocopying. So, where did Ford Continue reading “Glazed C-pillars From the ’80s”
Recent correspondence has hinted at the genre of car analogous to a band’s difficult second album.
Every one knows Kula Shaker’s second album was going to be a disappointment. It happens to a lot of bands. The musicians have a lifetime (say, 23 years) to work on the first album. Then they have about eight months to work on the second album, once the tour is done and the alcohol has been washed out of the system and the papers are signed on the Chiswick house they will have to sell a year or two later.
Part Two: Crunch Time.It was driving between two rows of terraced houses, windows wound down, when I first heard the noise. Graunch.
I could hear it when changing into third or fourth gear; sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, but consistently those two gears. Graunch. As the journey wore on, I noticed that pedestrians were occasionally turning to look for the source of the sound assaulting their ears. Crunch. Graunch. Ouch.
It’s all Lady Gaga’s fault, say Toyota. Well, you’d try to spread the blame too.
We’ve become accustomed to hearing Car designers come up with all manner of implausible justifications for their creations, but does anybody take this stuff seriously? To my eyes there’s now a tacit understanding between designer-spokesman and us, the auto-literate. They know we won’t believe a word, while we view their pronouncements with the contempt they habitually deserve. This is where Shunsaku Kodama comes in. As the Toyota designer responsible for the 2016 Prius, he has rather a lot of explaining to do. Continue reading “Born This Way? – The Prius Goes Gaga”
For those who don’t know, bangernomics is Ruppert’s term for a car buying philosophy where the aim is to find a really cheap car with a long MOT. I first came across the concept in the early ’90s when reading Car magazine. At that time Ruppert had a column on used cars. He also ran a series called the Crap Car Cup that required the contestants to get the best, cheapest car possible and run it and race it.
Ford have announced that they will be investing $4.5 billion in electric vehicles. According to the website the aim is “to create future vehicle user experiences”
The end result is that 40% of its vehicle line up will be electric after they have modified some cars and added others (13 electric nameplates, apparently). Among the changes, the Focus Electric will have a 100 mile range and a quick charge of 80% to Continue reading “Ford’s “Future Vehicle User Experiences””
In light of our Ssang Yong fun, I remembered the link to Mercedes. It’s not just the engines; it’s that the CLS shooting brake is another one of those cars where the sculpture and graphics have parted company.
The first image is the CLS as it is. The second one is a mark-up of the main lines of the car as it would appear if it had been done as a proper estate car and not as a strange not-quite-a-hatchback. On the actual car the roof wraps down so markedly onto the sides that it seems to have deflated. That’s not a good image for a car. If you like you can actively see it that way before you turn on your heel and leave.
Further to comments today, I looked in detail at the ‘flying bridge’. The groove running parallel to the rear door frame is part of the problem but really is a little problem on top of a heap of more fundamental ones.
…that was the intention behind the design, says Wikipedia but the allegation is not supported by a reference.
At the moment I am conducting an inquiry into whether ugly cars can tell us anything about the aesthetic experience. This research calls for some examples and the 2004 Ssanyong Rodius is one of the great ugly cars of recent times by common consensus. What is wrong with it and how was it supposed to be seen? Continue reading “2004 SsangYong Rodius – The Essence of Luxury Yacht”
I first became aware of the Cord 810 / 812 in the mid 60s. The Author James Leasor owned one and made it the car of Jason Love, the hero of a series of spy novels. His own car even featured in a film of one of the books, ‘Where The Spies Are’, starring David Niven. Introduced in 1936, the 810 was fitted with a V8 Lycoming engine with a gearbox ahead of the engine driving the front wheels. Apart from the engineering, the car had a Gordon Buehrig designed body that made it stand out from anything else at the time, and it still does. Continue reading “Mod Culture”
Jaguar’s power units have entered legend. This month we ask whether the XF’s engine and powertrain are cut from similar cloth?
Try as I might, I’ve yet to satisfactorally reconcile the concept of a compression ignition Jaguar. But commercial realities make for expedient bedfellows and the Ford/PSA-developed 2179 cc 16 valve diesel unit powering our XF has been responsible for the marque’s growing acceptance in the vital company user-chooser market in the UK. Commercial success notwithstanding, there’ll be few obituaries now it’s been consigned to Continue reading “Dark Satanic Mill: Jaguar XF 2.2 Premium Luxury”
Here’s the new Citroen E-Mehari, an electric vehicle they call an ‘image accelerator’. Automotive News did the initial report.
Citroen’s own press site is still reporting on their tie-up with Toyota though. The E-Mehari is a reskin of the Bollore Bluesummer – made in the same plant – and takes some of its styling cues from the C-Cactus. Like Fiat, one model seems to be defining the look of the brand, which was perhaps not expected when they launched the C-Cactus. Continue reading “Citroen E-Mehari Revealed”
I think that society in general has a romantic notion about how nice it is to be driven – by a chauffeur in particular. Recent experiences have led me to feel that it’s rather a disappointment.
Forgive me if this comes across as just a ruse to write about a problem I have been dealing with recently, but I feel it is worth a few lines. Six weeks ago, I ruptured by Achilles tendon (proof, if anyone reading needs it, that exercise is potentially harmful to you!), and I face another 5 weeks at least with my left lower leg in an Air Cast boot (a rather marvellous innovation, if not one you ever really want to have to experience). Continue reading “Theme: Disappointment – Being Driven”
‘Talent borrows, genius steals’, the saying goes. It’s still bad manners though.
As Editor, it is with grim satisfaction that I note, with a New Year approaching, the enormous PR machine that lies dormant beneath the DTW offices might need to be put into action to reconsider our ‘World’s Least Influential Motoring site’ strapline. Continue reading “Christmas Competition”
Car and Driver recently ran a feature about second-hand electric cars, pointing out that battery-powered conveyances are creeping on to the American used market in ever larger numbers, and at very enticing prices.
A cursory glance at Auto Trader shows that this is indeed the case in the UK too. Leaving aside quadricycles, milk floats and cars from niche manufacturers boasting the crashworthiness of a yoghurt pot placed in a pressure cooker, the site lists more than 450 full electric cars currently for sale across this decreasingly green and pleasant land. Two things are surprising here: how inexpensive they are, and how little mileage the cars have accrued. Continue reading “Socket To ‘Em: The Chirpy, Cheapie EV”
This is a late entry hence the night-time photography. It’s a great example of a car that when current had the appeal and visual distinction of a disposable plastic cup…
…but is now rarer than a Ferrari [insert name of recent model]. Thus it is now morbidly almost interesting. The reason this particular car exists is that it was imported from Spain to Denmark at some point. The “E” plate is still on the tail. The Danish ones are all iron oxide now whereas Spain’s dry climate reduces rust’s assault on cars. Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 1983-1989 Renault 11”
In 2013 Nissan showed the Friend-Me at the Beijing Auto Show. This one makes a nice job of the trick C-pillar. Why?
Because it is actually glazed as opposed to being painted. And the graphics and panels are correctly related. I don’t mind this one at all. This is what Nissan says: “Combining striking design with an advanced premium interior, the Friend-Me concept car is a fascinating exploration of how the car of the future may Continue reading “More On C-Pillars But This One Is Good”
Car and Driver published a spy shot of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt. It has a zany C-pillar.
It’s hard to tell if this is one of the good ones. Plainly, to my eyes, this feature has become a cliché very quickly. You can view the full spy shot image at the Car and Driver website and we recommend you do because it’s a good magazine.
Run by: Acting Classics news sub-editor Myles Gorfe. Total Mileage: 299,913. Miles since September 20. Costs: £502 labour, £879.99 spares including replacement rear seats, interior trim and backrest, headliner, water pump, spark plugs and centre-section panels.
It’s been a busy month for the Grannie. Len Gudgeon at the Granada Garage has been unable to resolve the non-starting problem reported in September. Well, the car will start but only if it is in reverse. Whenever first gear is engaged it stalls. Continue reading “Our Cars: 1975 Ford Granada 2.0 L”