As February 2016 slides into memory, we bid a silent adieu to yet another theme.
So by way of round-up or merely a chagrined ‘how the hell did we fail to mention that’ groan, we return to the subject one last time to look at a couple of special editions we really should have got around to before now. First and most glaring (in every sense of the word) has to be the 1995 Volkswagen Polo Harlequin special edition. Between the Rock Tribute special editions we featured earlier and this duo, one can only speculate as to what those crazy guys & gals in Wolfsburg were imbibing? Solvents perhaps. But surely it can only have been blind prejudice and a staggering lack of vision that prevented VW’s European rivals from adopting this colour concept en-masse. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Or Not?”
There comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to ask yourself “Do I feel special? Well, do ya, Punk?”
If we ignore the Citroen 2CV for a moment, Special (in automotive terms at least) has generally meant more. More equipment, more individuality, more value. But for some that’s not enough. The statement is the thing. Some of us will recall the era of Rude Mercs, those bespoilered, beskirted, altered images of Bruno Sacco’s finest; as emblematic of an Eighties we’d prefer to forget as Stock Aitkin & Waterman, Huey Lewis and the News and the Westland affair. Fashions change, the world turns and for all I know Huey Lewis may well be hawking his flaccid wares somewhere as I write. (I’m sure he’s a nice man by the way, but some things you can never forgive). Continue reading “Theme: Special – Too Special or Not Special Enough?”
Simon welcomes a new guest author to the Driven to Write ranks. Feathers have been ruffled.
EDITOR’S NOTE : My Founders have recently asked me to investigate the possibility of securing some advertising revenue. All the feelers I have put out suggest that we first need to attract a wider readership to this site. In particular it was pointed out that re-publishing fifty year old road tests or impressions of small modern hatchbacks hired from airports does not attract the more hard-core enthusiast. With this in view, I have commissioned a leading journalist from the performance car press to pen a piece for us. Though usually published under another name, here he has chosen the nom-de-plume of Throttlegod. In an attempt to attract this new readership, I am fearlessly breaking the manufacturer’s embargo by publishing his recent test in advance of the car’s debut by way of a scoop.Continue reading “Throttlegod Decides – Pagani Huayra BC”
As we have found out while exploring this unusually fecund theme, special editions have a touch of the spurious. It doesn’t only apply to the volume car makers (who have that name for a reason).
It also applies in its own way to makers of cars that are supposedly exclusive already. Without looking up the numbers I am very sure that Ferrari sells fewer cars a year than Ford sells special edition Fiestas, for example. Yet Ferrari is not content to put five or six basic cars in their showroom, happy in the knowledge that only a few thousand find customers every year. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Limited Runs”
Would you blow £35,000 on a luxury version of a Ford Ka? Back in the Sixties someone did the equivalent and others followed.
There’s a partial myth about British class barriers finally breaking down in the 1960s. Yes, this was a time when working class kids like David Bailey could make it without having to go to elocution classes and when satire suddenly made the establishment seem less intimidating. But beneath the veneer, and outside the world of ‘creativity’, for most it was business as usual. Continue reading “Theme : Special – Maximising the Mini”
It’s not often a Bentley parks anywhere near me. Look what I found.
For a car costing as much as this one, this is not very good. It’s not as if the car is especially visually busy. It is a two-door car so there is not much going on to distract one from this kind of cheap detailing. Now you can accuse me of petty jealousy. However, I don’t aspire to this kind of car. Even if I had millions more pennies in my bank account than I actually did, I still wouldn’t want to drive something this wide and this uninteresting. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome IV: Bentley Continental”
We’re not huge fans of retro styling here at Driven to Write, but every once in a while, a concept’s essential rightness overcomes our reservations.
Over four decades it has been possible to gain a shorthand on the health and vigour of Fiat’s finances by how much (if any) development resources were drip-fed towards their impoverished Lancia division. At the beginning of the new millennium, despite being heavily indebted and messily extracting itself from the failed tie-up with General Motors, Fiat seemed primed to Continue reading “Denied : 2003 Lancia Fulvietta”
Recently I ran a small article on the hard edges of public transport design. Sitting in a VW Touran I noticed that someone in Potsdam had been cutting corners too.
How did they do that? On this b-pillar trim I noticed that the main fillet had a pronounced shadow before it turned the corner (where the orange arrow is). Sure, it’s not a major part of the car interior and I am probably the first person who ever noticed it. What it does is lend this part at coarse and cold look, precisely akin to the hard edges of a Xerox photocopier from 1986 or that Alstom train interior I showed. Continue reading “Cutting Corners the VW Way”
As I walked to the train station I saw this car parked up: the 2016 Kia Ceed.
Naturally I noticed the brightwork on the window-frame. Then I realised the colour had a daring, cheerful character. And finally, the geometry of the car is very, very good indeed. Judging by the richness of the interior, the owner went down the options list until the biro ran dry. This sort of car is the direct equivalent of a 1985 Ford Capri with the 3.0 litre engine, leather and electric windows. I really liked it. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome III”
Marcello Gandini designed the BX and it appeared in 1982. The design resisted tinkering and looked freshly out of this world even towards its end in 1994.
Twelve years is a very long run for a car in the competitive middle-sized class and it’s a credit to the original engineering and styling that it still remained believable right up to the end. However, even Citroen had to face the realities of the market and succumbed to a succession of special editions to try and generate interest in their car. Continue reading “Theme: Special – 1992 Citroen BX Millesime”
On the morning of 3 March 2015, a middle-aged man from Wolfsburg, who had chosen a career in the liquor trade in preference to his father’s and grandfather’s calling to the motor industry, stood before the international media, gave a brief history of his grandfather’s business, then introduced the new venture carrying the family name. In the fifteen allotted minutes we were introduced to the venture’s CEO and “business strategist” Karlheinz L. Knöss, their designer Einar Hareide, and finally, distinguished Cooper-Borgward racer Stirling Moss. Continue reading “Geneva 2016 – Posted Missing: Borgward AG”
Wind of change: As Maserati finally reveals its commercially critical SUV in production spec, we take another look at a distant ancestor: 2003’s Kubang concept.
The Levante has been a long time coming. How long? Well, it’s been thirteen years since Maserati first dipped a hand-tooled loafer in the crossover stream. In the intervening period that’s become a raging torrent, possibly explaining the tougher-looking, higher-riding vehicle we can see and purchase, subject to the mercurial whim of FCA’s masters.
In that time, there’s been two concepts named Kubang to speculate over, the first of which is this 2003 effort, created at a period when Maserati was being reinvented under the auspices of Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo; the prancing horse having assumed full control of the Tridente in 1999. Continue reading “Parallel Universe Levante”
It’s been a while since I did one of these design reviews. It’s the new Maserati SUV which is really a kind of raised pseudo-estate. It still looks good, and far better than I had feared.
Maserati call this a cross-over, making it somewhere between an estate car, hatchback and SUV. Whatever it is called it looks purposeful and is much the most successful Maserati design since the second last Quattroporte. Recent cars have been rather busy and fussily detailed. This one is calm with enough subtle touches to explain its purpose without drifting into the realms of cross-over cliché. Continue reading “2016 Maserati Levante Resign Review”
As a fiftieth sporting anniversary fast approaches, we combine this month’s theme with our Print The Legend series and look at what could have been one of the first-ever Special Editions.
Following England’s victory in the 1966 World Cup, jingoistic feelings were high. BMC wanted to commemorate the event and hastily planned a tribute in time for the Earls Court Motor Show. An intimate committee to consider the alternatives was formed, consisting of BMC’s head of marketing and an outside consultant, the journalist Archie Vicar.
Their first idea, to have a series of 11 limited editions, all Morrises, named after each player in the final was deemed impractical, so a single iconic image was chosen, that of the number 4 shirt, Nobby Stiles, dancing a jig after the match and grinning through his missing front teeth. Continue reading “Theme : Special – An Early Bath”
It’s press release time and here I am going to regurgitate what Renault spelled out in the document they sent me today.
What can I remember from skimming the press release? I remember that the new Megane has a wider track to make it feel more solid on the road. It has the longest load bay in the class and there is brightwork on part of the edge of the sideglass. Continue reading “The 2017 Renault Megane SW Has More Chrome”
Ford wants the European market to see them differently. Perhaps they could start by being different?
I once watched professional cyclist, Peter Sagan being interviewed during the Tour de France. Asked what would prevent him winning the green (points) jersey in that year’s race, he rather naively replied; “unluck“. In fairness to Sagan, (who’s from Slovakia), he wasn’t speaking in his own language and we all understood what he was getting at. Which brings me to Ford’s new advertising slogan: Unlearn. By definition, in order to unlearn something, we must first undo the process of learning; to rid our minds of previously held orthodoxies and notions. Continue reading “What Does Ford Want Us To Unlearn?”
This is what it takes to turn one of the more handsome saloons of the past decade or so into an anonymous slab: matte black paint.
Volvo didn’t offer this car with the asphalt option. The owner actively decided they wanted to smear their lovely Swedish saloon with this drab coating. There’s a reason matte paint is not typically offered by OEMs. The highlights, worked over to the last 0.005 mm, disappear and the forms are flattended. Towards what end? Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: 2002 Volvo S80”
It isn’t unusual for a fashion designer to sprinkle a bit of his fairy dust onto the humble products of car manufacturers. What is more unusual is for a fashion designer to create a bespoke car for himself. Which is exactly what Karl Lagerfeld did – twice.
Franco-German fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld, is about as illustrious and flamboyant a homo sapiens as can be. That he chose neither a Rolls-Royce, nor a Mercedes 600 covered in mother of pearl, nor a carriage made of solid ivory, but the moderately sporting, restrained shape of BMW’s second and third generations of Seven series saloons as his personal means of transportation can therefore be described as a decision that is as surprising and idiosyncratic as the man himself. Continue reading “Special – Karl Lagerfeld’s Salo(o)ns”
Cleared for takeoff: Driven to Write examines a special edition with lofty pretentions.
Typically, special editions of mass market cars are the domain of clothing or sports equipment brands. Usually, they consist of not much more than a particular colour/trim combination and a set of logo stickers. But there is one special edition from the 1990s that was so much more than that. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Ford Ka Lufthansa Edition”
Bouquet of lilies in hand, Driven to Write ponders what might have been.
The demise and desecration of the idiosyncratic Swedish brand may be the source of an endless stream of stories. Yet more interesting is a less well-publicised aspect of the period when Saab was already taking its last breath: the cars that were not to be.
The very fact that Saab was a deeply mismanaged business would appear to be indisputable. And yet, at the very end of its existence, that other Swedish brand seemed to have developed a hitherto dormant will to survive. Continue reading “Ghosts Of Saabs Unborn”
Last year Bloomberg and, I suppose everyone else, asked will Tesla ever make money? They lose $4000 on every model S they sell. What else could they have done with the money?
As anyone who reads the financial news knows, the world´s economy is awash with cash and has been for almost a decade. The Bank of Japan is so keen to get people to spend their lucre that they are now charging negative interest rates. The surplus of cash has led to commodity and asset bubbles as far as I can tell. Want to know why a zero-bedroom windowless chamber in London costs £800,000? Continue reading “Efficient Markets And The Tesla Gamble”
Volvo are re-emerging from the Northern wilderness and look set to upset the automotive establishment by offering something increasingly novel: a genuine alternative.
Recently I was asked to cite which manufacturer impressed most over the past twelve months and I didn’t hesitate. It had to be Volvo. Having been a brand that previously earned my respect but little else, the sole remaining Swedish marque appears to be in the process of reinventing itself as perhaps the most viable alternative to the hegemony of the luxury car establishment, with a style and appeal that stands coolly apart from the self-aggrandizement of the mainstream prestige marques and their acolytes. Continue reading “Volvo: Scandinavian Without the Drama”
A little while back we ran an article about car sales in Ireland in January. We asked Fiat Automobiles Ireland to respond.
In the spirit of balance, we considered it a good idea to see what Fiat had to say about the market position and general outlook for their products. Here is what Gerry Clarke, Country Director, FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Ireland Ltd had to say:
“There are a number of points to consider regarding FIAT in Ireland. FIAT is strongest in segments that are traditionally very small in Ireland. We’re segment leaders across Europe with 500 and Panda but for a number of reasons Irish buyers tend to prefer larger cars and especially three-box saloons, an example of which we currently do not offer in RHD! Our B-segment car is now nearing the end of its product cycle and with the end of Bravo production we’re now missing altogether from C-segment and these still segments represent the majority of sales in Ireland.”Continue reading “Fiat Ireland: Their Point of View”
I prefer to avoid travelling too far and too often down memory lane for these articles. However, the 1983 Renault 18 “American” special edition has lured me to briefly wander along that path.
As is well documented here, the 80s in Ireland passed slowly and greyley. I imagine selling cars required patience and determination as fewer people were buying, struck by the fear of unemployment or numbed by the pervasive sense of despair. Imagine trying to sell a middle-rank car of limited apparent appeal. The Renault 18 had six years under its belt by the time 1983 had rolled around.
A while back I ran an item on the connection between the 1991 Mercedes S-class and the Ulm School of Design. In it I promised I’d show some photos I took of the Deutsche Bahn ICE train which I propose as having been at least inspired by the Ulm School’s design approach.
This photo series was taken on the last run of the ICE direct line from Aarhus, Denmark to Hamburg, Germany in December, 2015. I took the opportunity to photograph the interior which is both modern and welcoming. It is full of thoughtful touches and is in contrast to the rather horrid Alstom commuter train I experienced recently.
The essence of my argument is that design differs from engineering in that it recognises the humanity of the user through what David Pye calls useless work. David Pye’s work is required reading for anyone interested in the meaning and value of design. This train supports that case. Continue reading “A Little More On Train Interiors”
Driven to Write considers the cream of the motorist’s alphabet
Every niche has its own alphabetical hierarchies. For computers, maybe ‘X’ is the best letter, or perhaps lower case “i”, but top of the motorists alphabet must be ‘S’. ‘S’ is the most Special letter, whatever it stands for. Just seeing an ‘S’ attached to a car’s name let’s you know that it will be better and faster than a car that only has an ‘L’ or, horror of horrors, a ‘D’, a letter that offers only parsimony, slipperiness, smell and clatter, unless it is a Citroen. Continue reading “Theme : Special – ‘S’ as in ……”
For various reasons this year I have travelled more kilometres in public transport than in cars. What did I discover?
One thing is that cutting corners on the design of trains is a real false economy. The train shown here is a commuter carriage made by Alstom. The argument they’d make is that cutting the cost of the carriage keeps ticket prices down and attracts passengers. I’d argue that the cost of making this carriage something fit for humans is nugatory given the service life of the device. And since the passenger is probably comparing life in a car to life in a train, the train trip would have to be incredibly cheap for the cold brutality of this interior to be discounted. Continue reading “Ceci N’est Pas Une Voiture”
Today is Valentine’s Day so, this morning, my Citroen is booked in for a top of the range full valet.
In the afternoon I’ll top up all the fluids and change the air freshener. Late afternoon we will go out together, her and me. There’s a little place off the A3 we’ll pull off into, and we’ll just sit together and, as dusk falls, we’ll recall the past 20 glorious years we’ve spent together. And later, maybe ……. Continue reading “The Road Of True Love”
A disappointment when new and thoroughly unloved now, Driven to Write examines an Alfa well past its best.
The 1992 Alfa Romeo 155 marked the end of rear wheel drive for its maker. The car improved upon the much-loved and little-sold Alfa Romeo 75 by carving out more interior space and having a bigger boot but in other respects was an inferior car. The dynamics of the car left a lot to be desired. The 75 had its gear box in the rear and had near perfect 50:50 weight distribution. For all its faults, the 75 in all its guises handled well.
Despite being assembled by Citroen UK in Slough between 1954 and 1960, the 2CV only became popular in Britain when it was reintroduced in 1975.
This success was partly due to the oil crisis, with the call for more economic transport, but also (and this too was in part an indirect result of the oil crisis) because the turbulence of the 1970s had put paid, for a period at least, to those petty hierarchical differences that have usually been so important in British society. Continue reading “Theme : Special – By Any Other Name.”
The Gamma Berlina’s appearance would divide opinion. In this part, we examine the concept that inspired it.
The styling of both Gamma variants was the responsibility of Pininfarina, a design house with a lengthy and distinguished association with the Lancia marque. While the Gamma coupé would reference themes from Lancia’s stylistic past, the scheme for the Berlina would prove a complete departure; echoing, particularly in the canopy area, the carrozzeria’s 1967 Berlina Aerodynamica, possibly the most influential saloon concept since their Lancia Florida series a decade earlier. Continue reading “Gamma: Signs and Portents – Part Seven”
Today is Ash Wednesday, when devout Christians wear ashes as a prelude to six weeks of Lenten privation. So as the faithful mortify themselves, we ask is there still a place for austerity in a recovering European car market?
Austerity: The condition of living without unnecessary things and without comfort, withlimited money or goods, or a practice, habit, or experience that is typical of this.
We look at what people do to a Driven to Write favourite in the name of individualism.
Whenever the 1971 to 1974 Toyota Crown S60 is discussed in the pages of Driven To Write, it is notable that there is a fair deal of respect and affection for it, much more than there was in the UK and US at the time of its launch. But we are discussing the stock vehicle. What is our attitude to the various modifications, small or substantial, that have been visited onto this particular version of the ‘living legend’ (to quote Toyota)? Continue reading “Theme : Special – Polishing The Crown”
Here’s a Special Edition that was real class – middle class, that is.
The Fiesta Finesse holds a very specific place in my memories. It helped me to understand that I was middle class. It also taught me that minor details can matter inordinately in people’s perception of things, and, in particular, cars. The car itself was introduced in 1983 as part of Ford’s ‘special edition model programme’, according to a press announcement made at the time. Looking back, this programme featured models (also including the Cortina) that just happened to be at the end of their life and so were in need of a little marketing boost to support sales. Continue reading “Theme : Special – Ford Fiesta Finesse”
This could have been a Picture for Sunday. Instead it’s more about materials and form.
Background: the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee (which is what I think this is) appeared on the world stage as a derivative of the Mercedes W-166 platform which also made its way to showrooms in 2011. That’s news to me. Did Mercedes license this? The whole of the Grand Cherokee Wikipedia entry reads like it has been airbrushed by someone with corporate interests so I have my doubts. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome II”
Mahindra and Mahindra bought Pininfarina who had been losing money for quite some time. Now plans are revealed as to their future activities.
The XUV Aero appeared at the New Delhi Motor show. At the same time Mahindra explained that they plan to enlist Pininfarina to design a “premium” car to offer more competition in that part of the market they specialise in, SUVs. Looking at the XUV Aero here one can hope Continue reading “Whatever Happened To Pininfarina?”
“Special” might not be a term that many would use in its positive sense to describe a Maestro of any kind, but I think this one deserves a mention as part of this month’s thematic celebration.
I like to think that this was a car marketed with a twinkle in the eye of those involved. It was as if they knew that the public and journalists in particular would scoff at the very notion of it, and so they just added a little wry smile to the way that it was presented to the market. Continue reading “Theme: Special – 1988 MG Maestro Turbo”
We ran a piece earlier this week on VW’s sales in the Republic of Ireland which was such a resounding success we decided to run another today on some of the wider trends in the Irish market for 2016. It’s no trouble…
January car sales for the Republic of Ireland have been announced and as predicted show significant gains with 39,812 registrations; up 33.6% over the same period last year. Firmly in the lead is Hyundai, followed closely by Toyota and Ford. Last year’s sales winner, VW has slipped back; an Irish Times report suggesting this may be a consequence of the ongoing emissions revelations, although given VW’s sales have also risen, that’s just conjecture. Continue reading “Agus Anois an Aimsir – January’s Car Sales”
As a result of poking around Curbside Classics I found a photo of a car that did not deserve its Cadillac nameplate.
There are lots of reasons why Cadillac got into the difficulty it did. Chief among them has to be the fact many looked appalling even if they were quite nice really. This is the worst offender, supposedly launched during the Art & Science phase (which is still running): 2000-2005 DeVille (or de Ville or De Ville) Continue reading “The Deville is in the Detail”
I just love Curbside Classics. They produce fascinating nuggets of US automotive history with a fond yet critical attitude. The comments are unusually good as well.
Further, they seem to have access to the catalogues of GM, Chrysler and Ford if the detail on the technical specifications are anything to by. This article deals with ten obscure special models. I notice that their use of the term applies to what I’d call trim variants that had their own badging and equipment. In Europe “special” seems to imply a plastic sticker and some cloth upholstery of questionable taste. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Curbside Classics Covers Special Editions”
This brief article, written for the short-lived “Sports Driver & Road Monthly”, is what looks like a transcription of Archie Vicar’s impressions of the 1977-and-a-half Chevrolet Camaro Z-28.
During the late 1970s the motoring correspondent Archie Vicar was in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. He would fly from Heathrow to New York on Concorde, do a test drive and fly back to his next assignment in the Midlands, six times a month. Photos by Karl Olsensen. Due the poor quality of the original images stock photos have been used.
What is this then? A sporty Camaro? It sounds like a contradiction in terms but somehow Chevrolet have decided to have a go at making a Camaro that can negotiate bends in the road. It still looks brash and crudely assembled in the American style. There is nothing here to scare even the most careless assembly-line workers at British Leyland. The nose cone evidently comes from a different car and the rear bumper is made of a plastic as convincing as an amputee’s orthosis. Is it a kind of American XJ-S? Continue reading “1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 roadtest”
What a year for cars. VW Golf Mk3 replaced the Mk2 in 1991. What made it special?
Car magazine in 1994 deemed the Mk3 (as a VR6) sufficiently poorly made to warrant the re-use of their “Lemon” cover, first used in 1973. It’s interesting that Car would make a long-term test the subject of a whole front cover when they also had the opportunity to put an Aston Martin Vantage and Ferrari 456GT up front. That was then. Continue reading “Theme: Special – Golf Mk3 Special Editions”
The Volkswagen Golf of the van world is also a Volkswagen – The Transporter. For the UK, at least, the Ford Transit might have remained the archetypal white van but social orders have changed and user expectations increased, and there’s now less chance of presenting a driver with the miserly and basic working environment that the old-school van offered. The default layout of shiny, hard, non-height-adjustable seat, semi-horizontal steering wheel and a long, wobbly gearstick, all housed in a tinny, boomy cab, was pretty mean for anyone whose experience of vans stretched beyond the occasional weekend’s hire when moving flats. Continue reading “Van Of The Centuries?”
Ireland’s relationship with Volkswagen is long-standing and robust, but can it weather the emissions storm? Early signs suggest it can.
The relationship between Ireland and Volkswagen dates back to 1950, when local motor industry pioneer, Stephen O’ Flaherty, inaugurated assembly at the Shelbourne Road facility in Dublin, making it the first plant outside Germany to build the Beetle. The very first car assembled at Ballsbridge, an oval-screen Beetle registered ZL 2286 was subsequently acquired by VW and remains on permanent display today in Wolfsburg. Continue reading “More Hot Eire? Irish VW Sales Hold Firm”